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Canadian News Mar 29, 2019 3:19 PM EST

Bighorn, rural crime, and our duty to consult: a discussion with Kara Barker

In the face of failed consultations on Bighorn, Kara Barker was “compelled to speak out.” As a Crown prosecutor with a Juris Doctor in Law, Kara, an Edmontonian Cree woman, stood tall.

Bighorn, rural crime, and our duty to consult: a discussion with Kara Barker
Travis Gladue-Beauregard Montreal, QC

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be up to date.

In the face of failed consultations on Bighorn, Kara Barker was “compelled to speak out.” As a Crown prosecutor with a Juris Doctor in Law, Kara, an Edmontonian Cree woman, stood tall.

The traditions and values she both honoured and cherished as an Edmontonian Cree woman was something that could never dissipate with time.

It’s “our duty to consult,” she states. Minister Phillips’ lack of consultation on the grounds of a phoney RCMP investigation was “concerning.” Noting a ‘lack of safety’ ultimately earned the Environment Minister a new title: Minister of Hyperbole.

At the time of her latest op-ed with The Post Millennial, Kara was flustered by the NDP’s failed consultations on Bighorn. Another round of “consultations” exacerbated those feelings, but this time, with the NDP’s “Rural Crime Action Plan” that the United Conservatives voted against, back in 2018.

As we’ve come to expect, the NDP failed to consult with rural Albertans on the recent crime wave that has seen a 250% uptick in overall crime outside of the greater metropolitan areas, compared to 2011. Most notably, she points rising cases of domestic violence and property related crimes as some of the most pressing.

Additionally, 62 vehicles are stolen each day in Alberta. That’s three times the national average! Since 2014, vehicle thefts have risen 32% in the province accounting for 29% of such offences nationwide.

When asked what the United Conservatives would do to mitigate this, she states “our tough on crime strategy demonstrates we are heading in the right direction. More boots on the ground mean lighter caseloads for our junior Crown prosecutors.”

While a 4-½-year wage freeze on Crown prosecutors is partly to blame for the relatively new batch of 306 lawyers, the effects have been felt more so in cities like Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Red Deer and Lethbridge, where caseloads tend to be on the higher side.

As part of the Supreme Court’s Jordan decision back in 2016, time limits were imposed on how long criminal trials can go on without the accused tried. For provincial and superior courts, that time was 18 months and 30 months respectively. Those exceeding that would have their cases deemed “unreasonably delayed.”

As a result, the ongoing ‘triage’ of provincial courts allows countless criminals to escape jail time when their sentences do not exceed two years. This has opened the door for the NDP government to not prosecute some crimes due to a shortage of prosecutors and judges. This is unacceptable.

Under a hopeful United Conservative government, 50 new Crown prosecutors will be hired as the first of sixteen steps to combat the ongoing “crime wave.” To put things into perspective, seven of Canada’s top-ten most crime-ridden cities are in Alberta. In short, we need to do better.

On the topic of adult crime, her caseloads have focused primarily on drug-related offences in Edmonton’s Drug Treatment Courts, which she was encouraged to see steps taken by the UCP in their 16-step plan.

The program is intended to break the cycle of criminal behaviour driven by drug addiction, by offering participants a chance to avoid prison and complete a drug treatment program in the case of non-violent offences.

Other notable steps include legislating Alberta’s version of Saskatchewan’s ‘“Clare’s Law,” aimed at “allowing police to warn partners of someone’s violent or abusive past.”

While critics of the legislation remain doubtful of its effectiveness, Saskatchewan police chiefs across the province believe it will be worth it, “if it saves even one life.”

Given Alberta’s high caseload, particularly in rural areasmuch like Saskatchewan’s approximately 8,000 requests in 2017—“justice by geography” could influence disclosure rates.

As the head of Saskatchewan’s police chiefs puts it “it’s a responsibility of all of us to protect individuals from experiencing violence, [irrespective of costs].”

Unfortunately, the Alberta NDP has failed to consult with those most impacted by the rural crime wave. Failing at such was reflective of their inability to govern without an accountable grassroots mandate. As a party, it is our moral obligation to represent all Albertans and to stand by our province’s most vulnerable. They deserve to be heard too.

They deserve a voice, and it is our duty to consult with fellow Albertans.

While NDP leader, Rachel Notley claims the UCP was ‘slow to respond’ to their initial Rural Crime Action Plan, insinuating the former was hypocritical, Kara responds “Considering we’re not the sitting government, we responded appropriately. We’ve brought forth a well thought out strategy that holds [to our accountable grassroots mandate].”

Kara Barker is the United Conservative Candidate for Edmonton-Riverview, seeking public office in the upcoming provincial election. Be sure to get out and vote at your local polling station, April 16th and have your voice be heard.

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