Experts say politicians can pass laws, but they shouldn’t choose how to enforce them IG News

Irshadgul News report,

A law professor says political leaders unhappy with some laws can go ahead and support changing them, but refrain from suggesting police officers be punished for past actions.

Eric Adams, who teaches at the University of Alberta Law School, said the rule of law would be at risk if police officers were to step back from doing their jobs.

He was making comments that were first reported by Press Progress by Danielle Smith during an online Facebook Live interview last September with Vincent Byfield, a social conservative activist.

The video was posted a little more than two weeks before Smith won the United Conservative Party leadership race, eventually becoming premier of Alberta.

Discussing how public health restrictions were implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith said border police officers “made some big mistakes” such as when church priests were arrested for violating public health rules. was arrested.

He said that callers to his radio call-in show sent him sections from the Criminal Code, including Section 176 that makes it a crime to disrupt a church service.

Smith said, “The priests should never have been arrested.”

She said: “I wonder whether there are some of those officers who have broken the law in doing this or not.”

Adams said elected officials have a role in passing laws. But they don’t get to pick and choose how the laws are administered or who they apply to versus who is exempt.

“When that starts to happen, the erosion of the justice system unfortunately accelerates,” Adams said.

Two people are standing behind the fence.  An upside down Canadian flag is attached to the fence.
Supporters gather outside GraceLife Church near Edmonton, Alta., in 2021. The church was closed by police and Alberta Health Services in violation of COVID-19 regulations. (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press)

While Section 176 of the Criminal Code states that disturbing a religious assembly is an offence, he pointed out that the intention to disturb is important.

For example, he said that if firefighters respond to a fire in a house of worship, they go with the intent to extinguish the fire, but not to intentionally disrupt a religious gathering.

Adams said a similar situation would be to implement public health restrictions in a pandemic.

In that case, the police are assisting public health officials when a disease or virus is spreading and the intention is to keep people safe.

rcmp response

Smith took his concerns to Pastor James Coates. His Gracelife Church near Edmonton was shut down by police after it repeatedly held church services contrary to public health orders that were in place at the time.

In a statement, the RCMP’s K Division for Alberta said: “The RCMP were present as a supporting agency during the Alberta Health Service Public Health Inspector’s investigation. Any enforcement carried out by the RCMP is carried out under the authority of the Public Health Act I went. “

A man in a tie.
Eric Adams, who teaches at the University of Alberta Law School, said the rule of law would be at risk if police officers were to step back from doing their jobs. (Eric M. Adams)

A provincial court judge in 2021 rejected Coates’ argument that Section 176 had been violated by health and law enforcement officials.

“Nothing about the December 20 conduct of the AHS or the RCMP violates Section 176 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits obstructing a religious service. Arguments to the contrary conflict with the facts of the case. Section Doesn’t dig ditches around 176 places to stop enforcement of laws being repeatedly broken.”

Asked to explain her comments during a Monday news conference in Calgary, Smith did not address the situation or why she feels that way.

“What I will say is that I know the NDP is constantly bringing out grainy videos of things that I’ve said in the past or that other candidates have said.”

legislative limited opposition

Trevor Harrison, a political sociologist at the University of Lethbridge, said that this kind of political thought is actually a kind of American populism.

Harrison said, “To bring up the idea that police officers were actually at fault and breaking the law, I’ve never heard that in Canadian political discourse.”

A woman stands on the stage and speaks.
Daniel Smith speaks at a UCP leadership candidates debate in Medicine Hat, Alta., last July. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Harrison said that this is about any time political leaders believe that the police should be aligned with their worldview of a situation, which introduces an arbitrary element to the rule of law.

Harrison noted that the UCP government, under Jason Kenney, brought in legislation to limit protests around critical infrastructure such as pipelines.

But when the busy highway between Montana and Alberta was blocked in Coates in 2022, some UCP legislators showed their support for the protesters.

Harrison said, “I think the real concern here is that the way Daniel Smith would like to see the law applied is an arbitrariness of the way it should actually be processed.”