Calgary

Temporary COVID-19 enforcement power issued to Alberta peace officers expires

The recent expiry of a ministerial order means some Alberta peace officers no longer have the authority to enforce COVID-19 rules under the public health act.

Order issued contained sunset clause allowing it to expire after 90 days

Some Alberta peace officers no longer have the authority to enforce COVID-19 rules under the public health act after the expiration of a ministerial order. (Mike Symington/CBC)

The recent expiry of a ministerial order means some Alberta peace officers no longer have the authority to enforce COVID-19 rules under the public health act.

According to a bulletin posted online by the Alberta government, level one community peace officers and level two Alberta peace officers saw those temporary enforcement powers expire earlier this week.

Terri Miller, president of the Alberta Association of Community Peace Officers, said that order gave the officers the ability to enforce the public health act while working in tandem with local police and Alberta Health.

"Once the ministerial order is removed, their ability to enforce under that public health act is also removed," Miller said. "So the onus would fall back on local police agencies, such as the RCMP."

Municipal bylaws in effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic aren't affected by the announcement.

The Alberta government initially gave municipal peace officers the power to fine people under the public health act in March of last year. Those powers were rescinded when the province cancelled the public health emergency.

The order issued Nov. 27 gave peace officers the power to fine a second time, and contained a sunset clause that allowed it to expire after 90 days. 

Peace officer roles

Level one community peace officers are employed typically by municipalities, while Alberta level two peace officers are employed by the provincial government.

Roles can differ from traffic enforcement to bylaw enforcement, Miller said, and responsibilities of the peace officers vary depending where they are situated. 

"A lot of them are more in the smaller communities like Okotoks, Red Deer, Rocky Mountain House … more of the rural communities," Miller said.

"It does come into play in the bigger cities like Calgary and Edmonton as well, because it gives them a little bit more authority under that public health act to deal with the COVID-19 restrictions if they aren't covered by a bylaw."

According to the bulletin, there has been no direction provided at this time concerning whether or not the order will be renewed.

Blaise Boehmer, press secretary to Justice Minister Kaycee Madu, said the government is currently in talks with municipalities and law enforcement to determine if more resources are required to enforce the public health orders.

"All police officers and sheriffs continue to have the authority to enforce public health orders. In addition, municipal bylaws related to the COVID-19 pandemic remain in effect at this time, which can be enforced by community peace officers and bylaw officers," Boehmer said in an email.

Similar temporary authorities can be issued by the provincial government to peace officers through ministerial orders in other scenarios where police may need assistance, such as in the event of fires, floods or health emergencies.

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