No timeline to reinstate authority for some Alberta peace officers to enforce COVID-19 orders

Some peace officers in Alberta no longer have the authority to enforce provincial public health orders, which were introduced to limit the spread of COVID-19.

According to a memo from the Alberta government, Level 1 community peace officers and Level 2 Alberta peace officers can no longer enforce provincial public health restrictions.  The memo said the powers expired on Friday.

The provincial government announced the expanded enforcement powers for peace officers on Nov. 27 as the province began to introduce stricter health measures in response to a surge of COVID-19 cases.

Read more: Who’s responsible for enforcing COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta?

According to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General, the ministerial order had a “sunset clause” which allowed it to expire after 90 days.

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“Alberta’s government is currently in talks with municipalities and law enforcement to determine if they require further resources to enforce public health orders,” government spokesperson Blaise Boehmer said in a statement to Global News. “All police officers and sheriffs continue to have the authority to enforce public health orders.”

When the order was issued in November, the provincial government said the expanded authority allowed around 700 peace officers provincewide to enforce public health orders; that included 69 officers in Calgary.

Calgary’s mayor said the expiry of the order was a surprise, and he hasn’t been given an indication whether or not the order will be reinstated.

“It’s important, but it’s not a critical issue,” Naheed Nenshi said Monday. “It is important, especially when we see rallies that are going on like this weekend, certainly our peace officers were there keeping the peace, but they couldn’t actually write tickets and that puts them in a difficult position.”

Read more: Calgary city council denounces acts and symbols of hatred at weekend protest

According to the City of Calgary, municipal bylaws in effect — like the city’s temporary face-covering bylaw — aren’t impacted by the order’s expiry.

City officials said that they remain hopeful the enforcement authority will be reinstated.

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“There have been discussions with the province about reinstating this authority. The province is currently considering this request,” the city’s chief bylaw officer Ryan Pleckaitis said in a statement. “However, a timeline on the decision has not been provided to the city at this time.”

As of Thursday, 197 tickets had been issued to people found in violation of the provincial public health orders in Calgary. Of those, two were issued since Feb. 18.

The city said the Calgary Police Service and Alberta Health Services will continue to enforce violations under the Public Health Act.

When the ministerial order was put in place in November, there was concern over enforcement and people not following the health measures put in place. Nenshi said since then compliance has generally been a non-issue.

“Despite the anti-mask rallies, compliance has been quite good,” Nenshi said. “Things were actually going very nicely; the police, peace offices and Alberta Health Services inspectors were really working together well.”

Violation of the provincial health restrictions can carry fines up to $1,000 per ticket, and fines upwards of $100,000 through the courts.

Watch below: Some Global News videos about the enforcement of public health measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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