Alberta seeking to amend Police Act, Provincial Offences Procedures Act and Queen’s Counsel Act
The Alberta government has recently passed Bill 38, the Justice Statutes Amendment Act, which, when in force, will amend various statutes that govern the province's justice system. The long list of legislative changes includes an official recognition of the importance of First Nations police forces in the province.
Amendments to the Police Act
The Police Act governs the provision of police services in Alberta. Among other things, the Act:
- sets out minimum qualifications for police officers
- grants jurisdiction to police officers and police services and
- establishes and governs a system for hearing public complaints related to policing in the province.
The recent amendments officially acknowledge the role of First Nations police forces in the province. This recognition will ensure that the government's plans to modernize policing in the province through a review of the Police Act will take into account First Nations police forces. It will also ensure that any future changes made to the Police Act as a result of the review will apply to First Nations police forces and the communities they serve.
Amendments to the Provincial Offences Procedures Act
The Provincial Offences Procedures Act governs procedures for the enforcement of provincial offences and the use of violation tickets.
The recent amendments will authorize First Nations to enforce their bylaws by issuing tickets. Other amendments include the ability to:
- participate in trials by videoconference or telephone
- communicate with the court through the use of electronic means (telephone and email) for certain routine matters including entering a plea or setting a trial date
- serve a wider variety of tickets through the mail.
Amendments to the Queen's Counsel Act
The Queen's Counsel Act governs a system for recognizing outstanding service among lawyers who are members of the Bar of Alberta by granting the designation of "Her Majesty's Counsel", commonly referred to as "Queen's Counsel" or "QC."
The recent amendments will result in an automatic revocation of the designation for any Queen's Counsel who are disbarred.
The current eligibility criteria set out in the Act require a lawyer to practice for a minimum of ten years in Canada, Great Britain, or a combination of the two. The amendments to the Act will enable the designation to be granted to a lawyer who has spent all or a portion of that ten years practicing in other Commonwealth jurisdictions that use a legal system based on the common law.
Other Changes to the Justice System in Alberta
Other changes intended to help modernize the province's justice system include:
- an amendment to the Jury Act that allows juror summons to be sent by email
- an amendment to the Referendum Act that will enable referendums and senate elections to be held at the same time as a municipal election
- changes to the Victims Restitution and Compensation Payment Act (soon to be renamed the Civil Forfeiture Act) to increase the number of offences eligible for civil forfeiture and allow the government to fund the administration of the civil forfeiture program through proceeds raised by the program.
Disclaimer: Please note this article is intended to act as a general overview on a legal topic and does not constitute legal advice. For legal advice please consult with a lawyer.