Official languages watchdog concerned over future of French language policing if Alberta drops RCMP
Canada's official languages commissioner has written to Alberta’s justice minister expressing concern over the future of French-language policing should the province create its own provincial police service.
The apprehension is outlined in a January 2022 briefing note to the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada Raymond Théberge.
“If Alberta creates its own provincial police service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) would be replaced by a police force that will no longer have the obligation to offer services in French,” the note reads.
“We suggest you send a letter to the minister of justice of Alberta to bring this issue to his attention.”
The document was obtained by CTV News via an access to information request.Théberge’s office confirms the letter was sent on Jan. 20, 2022.
“I am concerned that French language services to Albertans could be adversely affected,” he wrote in an email in response to further questions from CTV News.
Théberge pointed to his 2020 report on the impact of emergency situations on official languages that highlighted “the crucial importance of communicating with Canadians in their first official language during emergency situations which often involve police forces, in order to inform them, reassure them and give them instructions that they can understand and carry out.”
The office of Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro confirmed it received the letter, and pointed to ongoing bilingual consultations with the Association Canadienne-Française de l’Alberta (ACFA).
A spokesperson says no decisions have been made regarding an Alberta police service.
“A guiding principle of this exercise has been to see if we can create a made-in-Alberta policing model that is more responsive to the needs of Albertans and reflects the values of our many communities – and that includes Alberta’s francophones.”
In June of 2014, the province implemented its French Policy that “acknowledges the past, present and continued social, cultural and economic contributions of the province’s significant and diverse French-speaking population.”
FRENCH LANGUAGE OBSTACLES
The most recent census data indicates Alberta has the fourth-largest French-speaking population of all provinces, with more than 268,000 being able to speak the language, nearly 80,000 using it as their first language, and close to 4,000 residents having a knowledge of only French.
The ACFA notes that French and English are the only languages in Alberta with a recognized status by policy and that French-English bilingualism in the province grew by more than 30 per cent between 2001 and 2016.
But francophone Albertans say getting services in French can be challenging.
“It’s a joke,” said Mario Dubé, a New Brunswick-born French-speaking Albertan who has lived in the province for 40 years.
“If you don’t speak English, ‘get out of here’, that’s what you get,” he told CTV News in an interview.
Dubé, who says he struggles to express himself in English, claims to have had trouble communicating in French to pay his local taxes, renew his licence, represent himself in court and communicate with the Canada Revenue Agency.
Last June, he was awarded more than $22,000 dollars in damages by an Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench judge after a combined RCMP-Edmonton Police Service traffic stop near Beaumont in 2006.
The ruling outlines how Dubé was bloodied when an officer shattered the window of the truck he was driving after he didn’t answer an officer’s queries in English.
“Despite the fact that the checkstop was just outside Beaumont, a bilingual community, no attempt was made to determine if a French speaking officer was present, to see if one was available over the radio, or to get an interpreter on the scene in person or by phone,” the ruling reads.
The judge’s ruling notes the officers “punished” Dubé for speaking French and that one officer “made offensive comments and tried to persuade him to speak English” after he was arrested.
"We should have people that speak both languages,” Dubé said. “I knew I did nothing wrong.”
The idea of an Alberta provincial police service was first put forward in 2004, but the province elected to renew its contract with the RCMP.
The concept was brought up again after the United Conservative Party was elected in April of 2019.
A government-commissioned study, published on Oct. 29 of last year, showed while a new police service could result in $49 million in savings, a $170 million federal subsidy could also be lost if the RCMP are pushed out.
Consultation with stakeholders and the public regarding that report and a potential shift away from the Mounties is scheduled to conclude on April 1.
Théberge notes the study “does not seem to have taken into consideration the issues related to the availability of French language services.”
He says it’s too soon to comment on the impact of French-language policing in Surrey, B.C., where the city is creating its own police service and is expected to drop the RCMP by the end of the year.
Seven Alberta municipalities, including Edmonton and Calgary, have their own police services. The Oct. 29 report indicates Alberta municipalities and the province spend about $613 million annually to fund the RCMP in Alberta.
In a statement, the RCMP says it is of “fundamental importance to provide policing service to Canadians to the extent possible in the language of their choice.”
It says about one in five of its regular members are English-French bilingual across Canada, including 329 working in Alberta, or about nine per cent.
The EPS says it does not have a second-language requirement for officers and that 82 out of approximately 1,780 sworn members, as well as 17 civilian employees and seven volunteers, self-identified as being able to work in French.
“Our police officers are trained in language rights and are well-versed in the organisational tools available to each of them to implement those language rights,” reads an EPS statement.
Alberta’s contract with the RCMP ends in 2032.
With files from Timm Bruch
The Shopping Trends team is independent of the journalists at CTV News. We may earn a commission when you use our links to shop. Read about us.
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
A CSIS officer who is among a group of whistleblowers raising allegations of sexual assault and harassment in the spy agency's British Columbia office says she hopes their actions have 'lit a match' to change what she calls a 'dark and disturbing place.'
Conservative MP Rachael Thomas has apologized after drawing criticism from other members of Parliament for asking Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge to answer questions in English at a committee meeting.
Emergency work is underway after a collapse at a Coquitlam, B.C., construction site that was caught on camera this week.
A Canadian mining company is expected to begin the process of closing its multibillion-dollar operations in Panama today after weeks of civil unrest and protests from civilians fearing the ecological repercussions of its open-pit copper mine that is twice the size of Manhattan.
Israel resumed fighting in Gaza minutes after a temporary ceasefire deal ended, and accused Hamas of having violated the truce. Hamas blames Israel, saying it declined offers to free more hostages.
Statistics Canada is set to release its November labour force survey this morning.
Corey Perry says he has started seeking help for his struggles with alcohol following his release from the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks.
A major breakthrough is made on the first day of COP28, former Chicago Blackhawks player Corey Perry apologizes and filmmakers in Bruce Peninsula 'accidentally' discover a 128-year-old shipwreck. Here's what you need to know to start your day.
Yvonne Drebert and Zach Melnick were looking for invasive mussels when they found something no one has laid eyes on for 128 years.
Police are investigating after a fatal shooting Thursday night in the Beltline.
Nazem Kadri scored the winner in overtime as the Calgary Flames defeated the Dallas Stars 4-3 in overtime Thursday night.
Coming face-to-face with polar bears, tracking otters gliding through the water and watching caribou prancing delighted guests at the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo the day before the public unveiling of its newly renovated exhibit.
After hours of debate, Saskatoon city councillors found $2.7 million in savings on Thursday.
Community leaders are reacting to the announcement that the St. Mary's Affinity Credit Union will be closing down due to safety concerns.
A Saskatoon man is celebrating a remarkable milestone this week as he turns 104 years old. With a life that has spanned over ten decades, Nick Kazuska is still going strong.
Former chair of the Regina Exhibition Association Limited (REAL) board of directors, Wayne Morsky, has spoken out for the first time since being removed by city council last week.
Internal Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) documents obtained by the provincial NDP show that four of the province's major hospitals were subject to critical care bypasses on Nov. 29.
The Queen City Wellness Pharmacy held their second ID clinic Thursday afternoon at the Heritage Community Association.
Police say human remains found in Big Bras D’Or, N.S., belong to a woman who was reported missing last week. Her death is now being investigated as a homicide.
A municipal councillor in eastern Prince Edward Island has been ordered to pay a $500 fine for displaying a sign on his property denying the existence of residential school graves.
A man who fell into a Moncton garbage truck was rescued Wednesday morning.
The fines for drivers caught illegally parking on municipal and private property have increased today.
New rules for Ontario real estate are coming into force that are meant to provide more clarity and choice for buyers and sellers, though they don't go as far as some had hoped.
A group of young climate activists delivered 630 mock cover letter to Minister of Youth Marci Ien’s Toronto constituency office Thursday as part of push for Canada to launch a ‘Youth Climate Corps’.
When teachers affiliated with the FAE union launched their unlimited general strike earlier this month, they did so without having built a strike fund over the years.
On Thursday, Quebec Court Justice Joey Dubois sentenced Kenneth Marlin to 14 years in prison for abusing five children over the span of a decade on his parents' farm in Hemmingford, Que., a small rural town about 65 kilometres south of Montreal.
Montreal police say a suspicious death of a 20-year-old man on Thursday in Saint-Leonard is now considered a homicide.
An Ottawa family physician won't get to stay in Canada after she did not meet the threshold due to factors outside her control.
It is a mild start to December in Ottawa, but the capital could see approximately 5 cm of snow over the next couple of days.
NEW THIS MORNING
NEW THIS MORNING What's happening in Ottawa this weekend: Dec. 1-3
CTVNewsOttawa.ca looks at things to do in Ottawa, eastern Ontario and western Quebec this weekend.
Aislinn Clancy has won a historic byelection for Kitchener Centre and the Green Party of Ontario.
'That could have been my home': Residents call for action after attempted arson at Waterloo apartment
A 21-year-old woman was arrested after allegedly attempting to set a fire inside a Waterloo apartment building.
A Kitchener restaurant says thieves broke into their business not once – but three times – on the same night.
A 34-year-old suspect is in custody after three people received serious but not life-threatening injuries in a stabbing attack late Thursday morning in Sudbury.
Thursday was the final day of work for employees on the pulp side of Domtar’s pulp and paper mill in Espanola.
Bobbie Halleart, the man who shot and killed his three children and a 41-year-old woman Oct. 23 in the Sault, was found with a .38 calibre revolver and a rifle, police said Thursday.
'Still loved by many people': Family of missing man starts billboard campaign looking for information
Relatives of a man who has been missing since 2021 are launching a campaign in the hopes someone will come forward with information.
A Winnipeg brewery says the 'Humbug' sign that it put up on its roof just a few days ago needed to come down.
Animals living at Assiniboine Park Zoo are on the hunt for new toys and other enrichment items heading into the holiday season.
There was an "officer-involved shooting" in Abbotsford on Thursday, B.C.'s police watchdog has confirmed.
B.C.'s Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness has taken the unusual step of issuing a public warning several days before an upcoming storm.
A woman who used a filleting knife and hammer in an attempt to kill her online nemesis inside a Vancouver courtroom will spend 12 years in prison, a judge ruled Thursday.
British Columbia's police watchdog is asking the B.C. Prosecution Service to consider charges against a Victoria police officer who shot and killed a man two years ago.
A 21-year-old Nanaimo woman who had been missing since Tuesday in the rugged woods southwest of the city has been found.
Health authorities are warning residents in a rural neighbourhood west of Victoria about high concentrations of manganese in their tap water, saying the mineral may pose health risks to infants.