Alberta justice minister calls for solutions from Edmonton on crime
EDMONTON — Alberta’s justice minister says people in Edmonton are not being kept safe from violent crime, particularly on public transit, and he’s ordering Mayor Amarjeet Sohi to provide answers.
Tyler Shandro has told Sohi he’s invoking his ministerial powers under the province’s Police Act to demand a report within two weeks on what the city will do to arrest a spike in serious crime.
In a letter to Sohi made public Thursday, Shandro cited an increase in downtown crime as well as in aggressive encounters and drug use on light-rail rapid transit.
He pointed to the killings last week of two men in the Chinatown district downtown.
“As the minister of justice and solicitor general, I have a responsibility under the Police Act to ensure the people of Edmonton receive adequate and effective policing,” Shandro said in the letter.
“It is quite apparent that residents feel uncomfortable and unsafe in the downtown core, riding transit and traversing the transit corridors.
“In short, the people of Edmonton deserve better than what this city council is delivering.”
Sohi called the letter an overreach by the provincial government, but added that he is glad the provincial government is finally paying attention.
“I share the same concerns about the safety in our downtown, Chinatown and on the LRT that he highlighted in this letter,” Sohi said Thursday. “The social issues that are causing these safety issues are nothing new.
“The disorder and crime that we are seeing in our downtown is directly linked to the lack of provincial investments in ending houselessness, the mental-health crisis, the drug poisoning and addictions crisis.”
Shandro’s letter said the United Conservative government is doing its part to address core issues that can lead to crime, including spending millions of dollars to fight drug addiction and homelessness.
Shandro did not make himself available to media to answer questions.
There was no comment from the Edmonton Police Service. Chief Dale McFee was to attend a city council meeting Friday.
Edmonton city councilors are currently debating whether to set this year’s police budget at $385 million, which would be a drop of $22 million if police could not secure extra funds from declining photo radar revenues.
Shandro said earlier this week he would be concerned if Edmonton’s police budget were to be cut.
The police budget has not been cut, said Sohi, who added that the city has invested more in transit officers, community action teams and in safety-related projects in affected areas.
“Council is investing in many issues that are the responsibility of the province and, frankly, they are falling short,” he said.
“The pandemic has brought to light so many social issues that are not being properly addressed or adequately funded.”
Sohi said he looks forward to meeting with the minister next week to outline his concerns and explain how the city is doing its part.
Irfan Sabir, justice critic for the Opposition NDP, said violent crime in Alberta’s capital is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. But, he added, the UCP government is choosing to off-load complex problems and pick fights instead of collaborating.
“People in Edmonton want a plan in place (so) they can be assured that they are safe in their homes and their communities. But in this instance, the minister is just passing the buck,” Sabir said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.
— with files from Colette Derworiz in Calgary
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press