By Letter to the Editor on July 21, 2020.
IÂ am a retiredÂ police officer andÂ court agent operating out of Medicine Hat.Â Â I recently became aware ofÂ the proposed Alberta Administrative Penalties Act that the UCP are trying to sneak through under Bill 21. I also note that this bill has already had second reading.
With this new legislation traffic court would be gone.Â The police will be ableÂ to charge you with an offence under any provincial actÂ or municipal bylaw, and you willÂ no longer be an accused but aÂ recipient.Â You will no longer receive a ticket but a ‘notice of administrative penalty.’Â If you want to contest anÂ allegation you will have seven days to request a review. YouÂ willÂ also have to pay a prescribed fee.Â The review then has to be doneÂ within 21 days.Â Also your matter will not be heard before a judge or traffic commissioner, who are legally trained and independent from the state,Â it will be heardÂ beforeÂ an ‘adjudicator’ who will be appointed by the government.Â Â Â Â
Next,Â once a review is set, the officer’s notesÂ and documentsÂ will beÂ accepted by the adjudicator as ifÂ taken under oath. That means the adjudicator will accept these as beingÂ true. The review will not be done in person and you are not allowed to examine or cross-examine any witnesses, orÂ the police officer.Â Â There will nowÂ beÂ a reverse onus and you willÂ basically be guilty unless you can prove yourself innocent.
If you disagree with any decision made, you may appeal to the Court of Queen’s Bench. Here there are more fees and you will probably need a lawyer.
WhatÂ of those with limited education, low income earners and those who barely speakÂ English? What about those that may beÂ targeted because of their religion, race, sexual orientation or political affiliations?Â
Could our right to a fair hearing be disadvantaged? With recent events, like Black Lives Matter, I think we allÂ know the answer to that. There is never a good time to give up our rights and give the state and police unprecedented power.
ThisÂ is just another UCP tacticÂ to cut government costs and generateÂ revenue.Â I encourage all Albertans to contact their MLAs and askÂ if they supportÂ this new proposed legislation that takes away our access to justice and if so,Â to maybe consider changing their minds.Â