UCP leadership candidates suggest police not enforce federal gun laws

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Two UCP leadership candidates have said they would consider ordering Alberta police not to enforce federal gun laws, a potential move a constitutional law expert has called of « disturbing level of political interference » in the justice system.

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It comes after the federal Liberal government pushed for a ban on handgun imports, ahead of a legislative sales freeze and a promised buy-back program for assault weapons.

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At a forum for leadership candidates on Thursday night co-hosted by the Alberta Prosperity Project, an independence initiative, and the far-right media organization Rebel News, three candidates were asked what they would do to push back against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s gun rules.

Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith suggested that a prospective provincial police department might refuse to enforce federal law, calling the buyout program a « straightforward forfeiture. »

« I posed the question to the RCMP, ‘When Justin Trudeau says your priority is to get out there and start prosecuting gun offenses that have just been turned into administrative crimes, are they going to do it? ‘ I think they will. This is why we need an Alberta Provincial Police that reports to us,” Smith said, suggesting that the Alberta government direct law enforcement to focus on policing instead. smuggling of firearms.

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Fellow leadership candidate and independent MP Todd Loewen said the provincial justice minister can direct the RCMP on its priorities.

« If we move to a provincial police force, we’ll have even more control, but we have to stop doing Ottawa’s dirty work, » he said.

Eric Adams, a constitutional law expert and professor at the University of Alberta, said failing to apply the law equally would be unconstitutional and problematic in a democracy.

« Once you cross that line, you’re no longer governed by the rule of law, you’re governed by the rule of a handful of people now calling out who the law should apply to and who the law shouldn’t. shouldn’t, » he said, adding that while the provincial government can administratively direct and supervise police operations, neither the federal government nor the provincial government can say they refuse to accept or enforce the laws of the other.

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« This is a step towards a troubling level of political interference in the administration of justice. »

UCP leadership candidate Brian Jean.
UCP leadership candidate Brian Jean. Photo by Greg Southam /Postmedia, file

Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Brian Jean, a lawyer, said he would focus on challenging federal gun laws in court and ask Alberta’s Chief Firearms Officer to use all the tools at his disposal to thwart Trudeau’s efforts.

Only three of the seven United Conservative Party leadership candidates appeared on stage, with former UCP cabinet ministers Travis Toews, Rebecca Schulz, Rajan Sawhney and Leela Aheer not attending Thursday’s forum.

The discussion follows Smith’s proposal for an Alberta sovereignty act that would allow Alberta to opt out of federal legislation, regulatory decisions and court rulings that lawmakers say go to against the interests of Alberta. Critics warned it would create a potential constitutional crisis, undermine the rule of law and scare off investors.

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While Smith suggested she would consider trying to find exemptions to circumvent the federal ArriveCAN app, which requires proof of vaccination for international travelers, Loewen went further.

« As far as ArriveCAN, having our own provincial police for the app, we can say no to that as well. »

The three candidates on stage Thursday night suggested significant changes to the way judges are appointed to provincial courts, with Smith suggesting a ballot system to check their records.

Loewen said he believes there needs to be a “more thorough” review process for judges to continue serving on the bench.

« If we can’t hold our judges accountable, then they do what they want, » he said.

Adams said it is « clearly » unconstitutional for the executive branch of government to purport to oversee an independent judiciary.

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“We have an independent judiciary under our constitution which says that the courts operate, necessarily, independently of the executive and the legislatures, so that when Canadians find themselves in court, they can be sure that they are receive impartial justice from a legal system free from political interference,” Adams said.

“It is both surprising and deeply concerning that serious people with ambitions to lead this province openly solicit such ideas.

Smith’s CPHA proposal ‘not helpful’: Alberta Medical Association

Also on Thursday, Smith proposed firing the executive of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) for its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The professional regulatory body’s board of directors is currently made up of members elected by physicians, members of the public appointed by Alberta’s Lieutenant Governor in Council, and deans of medical schools.

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Dr. Michelle Warren, president of the Alberta Medical Association, said in a letter to members Friday that the health care system is under stress and needs stability in its operation and direction.

« I don’t know the legality or the possibilities related to these comments, but I think such speculation is not helpful at this time, » she said.

Adams said the idea of ​​ending the college’s leadership seemed « concerning and bizarre » to him, and that the public should be concerned about political interference in the functioning of the health care system.



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