Shots fired over Alberta-named Calgary Police Commission members
Danielle Smith is firing back at Calgary city council for not changing a city bylaw to fall into line with a provincial bill that installed provincial appointees onto the Calgary Police Commission.
On Tuesday, city council voted 8-7 against changing the bylaw governing the commission to reflect the provincial law that allowed the province appoint three members on the 12-member police civilian oversight body.
“I think it’s very heavy-handed. I think it’s absolute overreach. And I think it’s time to exercise a little bit of sovereignty locally and say ‘no’ to this, come what may,” Mayor Jyoti Gondek, a former police commissioner, said prior to the vote.
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She noted council was not consulted on the change to the Calgary Police Commission makeup.
“No engagement on skillsets, no engagement on priorities, no engagement at all.”
Ward 7 Coun. Courtney Walcott, who also has served on the police commission, called the move “political interference.”
Gondek, Walcott, Evan Spencer, Richard Pootmans, Gian-Carlo Carra, Kourtney Penner, Raj Dhaliwal and Peter Demong voted against the bylaw change.
On Thursday, the UCP leader pushed back on the municipality’s vote.
“I think they’re playing games. I mean, it is an election,” Smith said. “I think that there are some ideological voices on that council.”
Calgary’s city council hopefuls do not run under party banners, but some councillors have been photographed attending partisan events. And Ward 4 Coun. Sean Chu is a former CPS officer.
Smith said the additions of provincial appointees to the municipal police governing body was to address the “public safety crisis” in Calgary and Edmonton.
“It’s dangerous. And because it’s dangerous, we need to get back to the kind of policing that I think that the citizens of this city expect,” she said, in a repetition of the UCP’s tough-on-crime messaging.
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As recently as mid-April, Calgary Police Service Chief Mark Neufeld said city streets are still safe.
Smith said another message was being sent in the addition of provincial appointees: “that policing is provincial jurisdiction.”
The UCP leader claimed that Municipal Affairs Minister Rebecca Schulz “did reach out and inform (city council) of what it is that we are doing,” a claim the mayor disputed.
“I would love to know the specific objection that misconduct has to addiction psychiatrist as well as two individuals, including one First Nation individual who has lived experience in helping us deal with the mental health and addiction crisis, because quite frankly, I think that this is just political grandstanding,” Smith said.
Currently, all 12 members of the police commission are Calgary residents appointed by city council, following a rigorous vetting process of applications from the public, usually in late October.
Two councillors also sit as commissioners, as long as they remain on council.
But current and former CPS members cannot sit on the commission.
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The Police Amendment Act, also known as Bill 6, was passed into law on Dec. 15, 2022, allowing the province to appoint three members to the police oversight body.
With city council voting down changes to the city bylaw, it looks like the police commission will balloon to 15 members, until terms expire at the October organizational meeting.
City solicitor Jill Floen said Bill 6 would take precedence under the Municipal Government Act if the city hadn’t amended its bylaw by then and city council would still only have power to appoint nine members.
No notice until May
Tuesday afternoon, the executive director and legal counsel for the police commission said the commission was not informed of the new members until this month.
“I was notified on May 1. The appointments were made on (April) 24,” Heather Spicer said, noting the appointments were done by ministerial order.
Those names were not made public at the time, as they needed to undergo enhanced security clearances and complete the commission’s onboarding process.
Spicer said she was advised the terms for the new members will be three years, “but I don’t have that in writing yet.”
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Commissioners usually have two-year terms, but can have their terms renewed.
And Spicer said it’s usually the commission that announces the new members after the onboarding and clearances are completed.
Smith announced the three appointees Thursday: Dr. Rob Tanguay, Kelly Ogle and a “Dan Agape.”
A Calgary Police Commission spokesperson said the background checks on the provincially-appointed members had not been completed yet.
Smith described Tanguay as an “internationally-renowned addiction psychiatrist.” Tanguay is listed as the chief medical officer of the Newly Institute, whose website lists ties with the City of Calgary and Calgary Police Service. Tanguay was also named to the Preston Manning-led COVID-19 Public Health Emergencies Governance Review Panel.
Ogle is the CEO of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI), a Calgary-based think tank that focuses on Canada’s international policies. According to a bio on the CGAI website, Ogle also manages the Energy Security Forum, is a “serial entrepreneur, scholar and published author,” and has served on multiple boards with a master’s degree in strategic studies.
“And we’ve got Dan Agape, who is an Indigenous person, I believe, from an Ontario First Nation. He also has lived experience,” Smith said.
The Calgary Police Commission confirmed Tanguay and Ogle as the newest additions, but was unable to confirm the third name, noting it was “completely different” from what they were given on May 1.
Spicer told council the province provided no bona fides or curricula vitae of the provincial candidates to the commission or the city, nor did the province seek to understand the up-to-date methods and criteria for choosing a police commissioner.
Walcott said there appeared to be more history to the members appointed by the province, pointing to apparent threats made by then-justice minister Kaycee Madu to remove provincial policing grants if the city continued efforts like anti-racism training for CPS leadership, establishment of the Community Safety Investment Framework and 211/911 co-location.
“Part of Bill 6’s decision… is also to mandate commission to follow through with provincial policing priorities, which is in addition to traditional policing standards and policing governance practices — one of which is to ensure that the CPS works in the absence of political interference,” Walcott said.
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“But how can you address provincial priorities? How can you report to them on the ways that you have succeeded in addressing provincial priorities without actually having direction from a provincial party?
“The moment (the justice minister) told commission that you have to follow provincial policing priorities and the moment he said ‘You can’t revoke them, only I can’ and then did it right before an election – that is political interference to me.”
— with files from Adam MacVicar, Global News
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