Edmonton

After threatening job action, Alberta prosecutors hope for resolution

A group representing Alberta prosecutors is to meet with the government Wednesday to try to resolve concerns that have Crown lawyers considering job action.

'We are expecting their proposal on how to end the crisis,' says Crown Attorneys' Association president

The group, representing 380 Crown prosecutors across the province, is calling on the province to address what it called "the crisis in the justice system" created by chronic underfunding and crushing workloads. (Cort Sloan/CBC )

A group representing Alberta prosecutors is to meet with the government Wednesday to try to resolve concerns that have Crown lawyers considering job action.

The Alberta Crown Attorneys' Association sent a letter last month to Premier Jason Kenney that included demands to address the "chronic underfunding of Alberta's prosecution service."

Copied on the letter were Tyler Shandro and Kaycee Madu, the current and former justice ministers.

The group, representing 380 Crown prosecutors across the province, called on the province to address what it called "the crisis in the justice system" and cautioned that prosecutors were considering "drastic steps" to resolve the concerns. 

The demands include meetings with senior government officials and a salary grid that puts Alberta prosecutors on par with their Ontario and British Columbia counterparts. They also want to be able to collectively bargain with the government.

"We are expecting their proposal on how to end the crisis. We are cautiously optimistic that the government now understands the root causes of the issue," said association president Dallas Sopko.

"We hope they come to the table with something more than an offer of a short-term salary correction that will not alone be sufficient to resolve the long-term issues plaguing our prosecution service."

Crushing workloads

Sopko said prosecutors plan to meet Wednesday night after the talks to discuss latest developments and are aiming to hold a news conference in Edmonton on Monday.

Sopko has said that 95 per cent of prosecutors in Canada have collective bargaining rights. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island are the exceptions.

Prosecutors face crushing file loads, lack adequate mental-health supports and receive uncompetitive compensation, he said.

Those leaving Alberta are being replaced with others less qualified, he added.

Sopko also said other provinces are compensating Crown lawyers up to 40 per cent higher, so Alberta has become "a farm team for prosecutors."

Shandro hasn't tipped his hand about whether there would be any offer on the table.

"We continue to work toward addressing their concerns in a meaningful and collaborative manner," Shandro said in a statement.

"I look forward to further updates as discussions progress."

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