EDMONTON — Alberta’s justice minister says a provincial parole board is to start work Monday and will be chaired by former Calgary police chief Rick Hanson.
Kaycee Madu says the board is expected to reflect community safety concerns, particularly in rural areas, and address the “revolving door” of justice for repeat offenders.
Alberta joins Quebec and Ontario with parole boards for provincial offenders, who are convicted of offences that draw less than two years in prison.
The United Conservative government passed legislation last year to allow for the board's creation.
It is to have an annual budget of $510,000, and Madu says talks continue with the federal government on sharing some of those costs.
The provincial board will determine parole eligibility and set parole conditions.
Madu says the goal is to have board members who understand the needs of Alberta communities, especially rural areas that have seen a rise in crime rates.
It will work in lockstep with a provincial strategy for added police resources to address rural concerns, he said.
“I am confident that with this comprehensive approach to dealing with the issue of rural crime and the consistent problem of repeat offenders — the so-called ‘revolving door’ — I am confident that we’ll finally get a handle on this problem,” Madu told a news conference Thursday.
Hanson, who was with Madu on the virtual call, told him the new board is "fully committed to taking on this job and making sure that the parole board does indeed do what you say, which is reflect the values of Albertans.”
Other board members reflect a range of experience in First Nations issues, legal matters, physical and mental-health concerns and rural governance.
They are Randy Anderson, Paul Bourassa, Craig Paterson, Shelly Takacs, Angela Tripathy and Lisa Wardley. They will serve terms between two and three years.
Emails obtained by The Canadian Press under Access-to-information legislation show that federal bureaucrats began discussing a potential Alberta parole board shortly after Premier Jason Kenney’s government mentioned it in the throne speech last February.
James Clark, a justice and security analyst/economist at the Department of Finance, wrote to the Parole Board of Canada asking about any financial implications.
“Presumably this would result in a decrease in revenue, but also workload," wrote Clark.
A parole board official responded by noting that 83 of 16,000 reviews the board conducted in 2018-19 were Alberta provincial offenders.
“Most provincial offenders are not released through a parole decision and are released due to earned remission. Secondly, the number of offenders reviewed for provincial parole are a small part of the (parole board's) workload overall, given the short sentences and other release mechanisms (temporary absences, earned remission),” Christy Hitchcock wrote.
“Given this, we would not anticipate a significant impact/cost savings if Alberta establishes a provincial parole board. On the face of it, this would appear to incur significant administrative and overhead cost for Alberta for a relatively small number of cases.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 28, 2021.
— With files from Lauren Krugel in Calgary
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press