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Alberta justice minister vows to speed up modernization of Police Act

Click to play video 'Black Albertans call anti-racism rally ‘a powerful moment’' Black Albertans call anti-racism rally ‘a powerful moment’
WATCH (June 5): Black Albertans Hazelyn Williams and Hakiza Froanck speak about the powerful impact of thousands of people showing up to the anti-racism rally at the Alberta legislature on Friday night. – Jun 5, 2020

Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer promised Monday to speed up efforts to modernize the Police Act.

READ MORE: Over 15,000 people in Edmonton gather for equality rally at Alberta legislature grounds

“Over the last week, we have seen Albertans rightfully outraged over an appalling act of police brutality in the United States. Many Albertans have also raised sincere concerns about policing here at home,” he said.

READ MORE: ‘Cry for freedom’: Thousands turn out to Black Lives Matter vigil in Calgary on Saturday

Edmonton saw a crowd of over 15,000 gather around the Alberta legislature on Friday for an equality rally. Calgary has seen several huge demonstrations downtown in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

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A Black Edmonton couple also spoke out about their interaction with police from a July 2018 arrest.

READ MORE: Video from 2018 shows Edmonton police officer using his knee on man’s neck during arrest

“Police officers serve Albertans, and the overwhelming majority do so honourably,” the justice minister said. “But incidents of abuse undermine faith in the system as a whole.”

Schweitzer said it’s his job as minister of justice and solicitor general to ensure people feel safe and confident that justice is being done.

“Any allegation of excessive use of force by law enforcement is serious and must be treated as such,” he said in a news release Monday.

“That is why we will expedite the government’s current work to modernize the Police Act.”

He said the update will make sure there’s framework and policies in place “so Albertans are confident that our police are accountable to the communities they protect.”

READ MORE: Trudeau to push premiers on equipping police with body cameras

“At the earliest opportunity, we will be meeting with the chiefs of police, First Nations, minority community leaders, and other stakeholders to work collaboratively to accelerate this effort,” Schweitzer said.

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Work started in September 2018 to review and update Alberta’s decades-old Police Act, which was introduced in 1988 and was most recently updated in 2011.

A spokesperson for Alberta Justice and Solicitor General said previous engagement work with stakeholders was an initial phase. Jason van Rassel also pointed out engagement on amendments to Ontario’s legislation took approximately five years.

He said the UCP government “has been actively working towards further Police Act modernization” and will now be “expediting its current work” but would not provide a timeline.

Schweitzer said the province is also calling on the federal minister of public safety to review the legislation and regulations governing the RCMP.

Click to play video 'Black Lives Matter petition calls on Edmonton to defund police service' Black Lives Matter petition calls on Edmonton to defund police service
Black Lives Matter petition calls on Edmonton to defund police service – Jun 7, 2020

Over the weekend, an online petition calling for the City of Edmonton to defund the police service picked up steam, garnering thousands of signatures.

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The city budget calls for the Edmonton police service to receive a $75-million increase over four years.

READ MORE: Black Lives Matter petition calls on Edmonton to defund police service

The Black Lives Matter petition circulating online supports cutting that and diverting it to community-led organizations. Supporters would also like to see the size of the police service reduced.