Edmonton

Competing protests in Edmonton show diverging opinions over proposed Sovereignty Act

Around 90 people gathered at the Alberta Legislature on Sunday to protest Premier Danielle Smith's proposed Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act. A counter-protest of roughly the same size also took to the grounds, in support of the controversial legislation.

'We really, truly hope and believe that we can get this bill revoked': protest organizer

Alberta premier weighing revisions of controversial 'Sovereignty Act'

2 months ago
Duration 2:09
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has said she's open to revising portions of the controversial Alberta Sovereignty Act within a United Canada Act that gives cabinet sweeping authority to determine the constitutionality of federal laws.

Around 90 people gathered at the Alberta Legislature on Sunday to protest Premier Danielle Smith's proposed Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act. A counter-protest of roughly the same size also took to the grounds, in support of the controversial legislation.

The bill, introduced Tuesday by Smith as the signature legislation of her new administration, has faced widespread condemnation for granting her and her cabinet sweeping authority to redress any federal policy, law or program it deems harmful to Alberta.

For days after Smith introduced the bill, she and her cabinet members rejected accusations, including from legal and constitutional scholars, that the bill granted unchecked power to cabinet.

On Saturday, Smith told her Corus radio talk show that her sovereignty bill was never supposed to give cabinet such sweeping authority, adding her government wants to make it clear in law that this is not the case.

"The premier will be speaking to her caucus on Monday about potential amendments to ensure this fact is crystal clear in the final legislation when it is ultimately voted on in third reading," a statement from Smith's office reads.

Haruun Ali, an organizer of the protest against the bill, said he was happy to see Smith reviewing this portion of the act.

"However, what we also want to see is a full rollback of this bill because honestly speaking, the government is trying to salvage this bill and salvage their agenda but it's not working," he said in an interview Sunday. 

"We really, truly hope and believe that we can get this bill revoked."

Haruun Ali, an organizer of the protest against the bill, said he wants to see a 'full rollback' of the proposed Sovereignty Act. (Caleb Perreaux/CBC)

Ali said that he thinks Albertans need help on issues like the cost of living and health care instead of having the government's focus on fighting Ottawa. 

Another organizer, Chad Ohman, echoed Ali's hope that the government would hear their demands.

"There are significant problems with the bill as it's presented now. I personally believe the bill really should be revoked," he said Sunday.

"It's an entire attack on our democracy."

Counter-protesters say Ottawa is 'overstepping'

Benita Pedersen, with All Fired up for Freedom, turned up as part of the group of counter-protestors and said she's in favour of the bill. 

"Ottawa has been overstepping in many ways and the Sovereignty Act is simply about Alberta standing in its own jurisdiction on many issues," she said. 

"We don't technically need anything from Ottawa."

The federal government provides money to provinces to help fund a broad variety of things including housing, transportation, legal aid and post-secondary education.

Counter-protesters also gathered in Edmonton on Sunday. (Caleb Perreaux/CBC)

Pedersen was a grassroots organizer of COVID-19 public health measure protests and attended the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa earlier this year.

She added that she appreciated seeing protesters with a different opinion than her, and said it's through conversation between people with different viewpoints that problems are solved.

Opposition response

Despite Smith saying she wants to tweak the bill, the NDP said in a statement Sunday that the bill is "beyond saving." 

"It must be revoked. It must be stopped," NDP economic development critic Deron Bilous said in a statement. 

"I'm here today to make it clear that Alberta's NDP will not support amendments to this legislation. We will not support undemocratic legislation that is already hurting our province's economy and reputation."

The government said in its statement that it's "disappointing" the NDP won't vote for the bill or propose amendments to it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emily Pasiuk

Reporter

Emily Pasiuk is a reporter for CBC Edmonton who also covers news for CBC Saskatchewan. She has filmed two documentaries. Emily reported in Saskatchewan for three years before moving to Edmonton in 2020. Tips? Ideas? Reach her at emily.pasiuk@cbc.ca.

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