Edmonton

Alberta Crown prosecutors reach tentative deal with province

The Alberta Crown Attorneys' Association (ACAA) and the province announced Wednesday that they have tentatively reached a short-term agreement after months of negotiations.

Short-term deal must still be ratified by Alberta Crown Attorneys' Association membership

The Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association president Dallas Sopko says the agreement would set a framework for a long-term relationship with the government. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

The Alberta Crown Attorneys' Association (ACAA) and the province announced Wednesday that they have tentatively reached a short-term agreement after months of negotiations.

ACAA president Dallas Sopko says he hopes it is the first step toward a long-term agreement to improve salaries, workloads, and mental health supports while also addressing the prosecutor shortage.

"This first agreement can often lead to subsequent agreements," Sopko said Wednesday.

"It really sets a framework for a long-term relationship with the government. If it's ratified, it creates stability for the [Alberta] Crown Prosecution Service, which we think is in the best interest of both Crown prosecutors and the public."

In May, Justice Minister Tyler Shandro agreed to a six-week negotiation with the association after it threatened to strike over what it described as low salaries, overwhelming workloads, and a lack of mental health support.

Shandro agreed at that time to increase prosecutor salaries to bring them in line with other jurisdictions and to sit down with the association to talk about creating a long-term framework agreement.

But after the six-week period passed in July, no resolution had been reached.

Sopko said at the time talks had stalled because the government would not recognize the ACAA as the single voice for Alberta's nearly 400 Crown prosecutors.

First of its kind

Sopko said Wednesday the tentative agreement reached earlier this week addresses more mental health support, file loads, preparation time, and compensation.

He said if the agreement is ratified within the coming weeks, it would be in place until the end of March 2024.

"This agreement is the first of its kind in Alberta and an important step forward for Alberta's justice system," Shandro said in a news release announcing the tentative agreement.

Sopko said the ACAA has had growing concerns over the last decade but that Shandro has been available to address issues and needs in a timely manner. 

"We really appreciate the ability to meet with him, to have candid conversations about our issues and his willingness ... to actually see through this agreement, which is the first of its kind in the history of our association," Sopko said.

He said the deal is "uncharted territory" for the association and it remains to be seen how it will play out in the coming years.

"There will be issues that come up that will need to be addressed in subsequent agreements," Sopko said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katarina Szulc is a reporter for CBC News in Edmonton. She previously worked at CityNews 1130 in Vancouver. You can email story ideas to Katarina.Szulc@cbc.ca.

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