Skip to content

Province proposes witness protection program

In a move aimed squarely at Alberta’s gangs, the Ed Stelmach government is aiming to set up a provincial witness protection program.

In a move aimed squarely at Alberta’s gangs, the Ed Stelmach government is aiming to set up a provincial witness protection program.

The proposal came among many new ideas released in the throne speech on Thursday and will be tabled as a bill early in the spring session.

Kim Misik, a spokesperson for Alberta Justice, said the province heard about the need for witness protection from police officers and wanted to provide a useful program.

“We are taking a lot of our lead from the police and they brought this up as a possible tool that could really help them in gang investigations and cases.”

While the federal government already runs a witness protection program, Misik said Alberta’s would be for witnesses who might only need protection over the short term.

“Alberta is looking to do something more short term and immediate that could help the police get the information they need and get the case into the courts.”

Insp. Kevin Galvin, head of the combined forces special investigations unit, which brings Edmonton police and RCMP together for major operations, said the new program is going to be a great tool for police.

“It would offer a level of protection for witnesses to come forward and give evidence, give information to the police in safety.”

He said it would help to have a way to protect witnesses in murder cases and other high-profile incidents.

Galvin, previously head of the metro-Edmonton gang unit, said police commonly deal with witness intimidation whenever organized crime is involved.

“We find the biggest hindrance in bringing closure to these cases and in bringing them to prosecution is the witnesses’ level of fear.”

While most times witnesses in gang cases come from within organized crime, ordinary citizens sometimes witness gang crime and need protection, he said.

“It would also be for citizens who might be walking down the street and witness something and don’t feel comfortable coming forward.”

Misik said the federal program doesn’t admit everyone and there are some witnesses a provincial program could protect. She said the two programs would probably work together on cases where someone needs long-term protection and possibly relocation after appearing as a witness.

“The federal public program tends to be more long term and what ours would do is supplement it so they could be used in tandem,” said Misik.

She said some of the guidelines the federal program uses might be brought to Alberta, but the government wants a unique program suited to the needs of Alberta police.

“There may be some overlap, but it will definitely be tailored to the justice needs of Alberta.”

Misik said the exact cost of the program would be better known following next week’s budget, but they don’t expect it to be substantial.

“It is going to be part of the operating budget, they are not looking at it to be any kind of big hit.”

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks