Alberta has passed a motion to establish a voluntary civilian corps to assist police in the province—amid widespread calls to defund the police.
Conservative MLA Todd Loewen put forward the motion that asks for the Minister of Justice “to explore options to establish a voluntary civilian corps to assist law enforcement in Alberta.”
When presenting the motion on Monday, Loewen, who represents the Central Peace-Notley constituency, said he hoped the initiative would support rural parts of Alberta struggling with high crime rates. Rural constituencies are often large and sit far away from police detachments, so a civilian corps could address gaps, he said.
“It would not be a paid group taking over for the police in any shape or form,“ Loewen said. “ It would not be an avenue for vigilante justice, for there lies other problems with that.”
NDP MLA Rod Loyola called the motion “insensitive.”
“We need to listen and explore the ideas from those calling for reform to law enforcement such as Black Lives Matter,” he said.
NDP opposition critic for community and social services, Marie Renaud, confirmed on Twitter that the motion passed.
Loewen only put forward a motion, meaning there is no legislation up for debate yet, but Renaud told VICE it’s worthy of wider discussion. “A lot of Albertans don't pay attention to afternoon debates so I wanted people to know this is where our attention is being focused now,” she said.
“What struck me was where we are in history at this point,” she said, adding that the motion is yet another Alberta move “leaving me with so many questions.” Renaud also referenced Bill 1, the “Critical Infrastructure Defence Act,” which essentially prevents protests in and around resource development sites like pipelines.
Loewen declined a request for comment. Alberta’s Minister of Justice Doug Schweitzer did not respond to a request for comment.
Alberta has been reviewing its Police Act since 2018, with Schweitzer previously voicing a commitment to modernize the act and include consultations with Black, Indigenous, and people of colour community leaders.
Schweitzer told Global News the updated act will include a framework and policies that ensure “our police are accountable to the communities they protect.”
The motion passed amid global anti-Black racism protests that are calling for local and federal governments to defund the police.
Police use of force disproportionately targets Black and Indigenous peoples in Canada, as well as people of colour, with many encounters resulting in death. By defunding the police, activists and academics say governments can reallocate public money to systems of care such as social work, addictions specialists, and mental healthcare workers who are better equipped than police to de-escalate crisis situations.
“The UCP literally put a motion on the table to set up local militias in Alberta. We live in a fucking hellscape,” one local activist tweeted.
University of Alberta Law professor, Ubaka Ogbogu, tweeted, “We are fighting for Black lives and the government of Alberta is creating a civilian militia to assist police and repeating debunked bullshit about how police creates safer communities.
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