Thursday, April 18, 2013

When is a Criminal Matter a Civil Matter? Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, R.S.A. 2007, c. S-0.5

In my earlier years as a lawyer I did eviction work for landlords and property managers.  In those early days I was more familiar with the Residential Tenancies Act (Alberta).   Since then many changes have been made to this act.  I recently became aware of the addition of a new section and corollary act:

Relationship to other Acts
3.1  Notwithstanding anything in this Act, if an order is made pursuant to the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act that terminates a residential tenancy or entitles a landlord to possession of residential premises, the tenancy terminates and the landlord regains possession in accordance with the order.
2007 cS‑0.5 s66

This section 3.1 references the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act (Alberta)I found this act a little ackward to understand but was able to find two cases which have contemplated it:


The "nub" of this legislation is that another remedy now exists for persons who are concerned about questionable conduct occuring in their community.  This act provides that a complaint can be made to the “Director” who by the act is defined as the Director of Law Enforcement appointed under the Police Act.  In the Memorandum of Decision of the Honourable Madam Justice J.B. Veit in Beaverbone, Justice Veit stated the following:

“[31] Alberta’s Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act allows the police to make
applications to a court for relief when property is consistently used for certain purposes such as
drug trafficking, gang activity and child pornography. The Act contains the following definition
of “specified use”:

(e) “specified use” means, in relation to property, the use of property for
(i) the manufacturing, import, purchase, sale, transport, giving, possession,  storage, consumption or use of liquor, as defined in the Gaming and Liquor  Act, in contravention of that Act,
(ii) the use or consumption as an intoxicant by any person of an intoxicating substance, or the sale, transfer or exchange of an intoxicating substance if there is a reasonable basis to believe that the recipient will use or consume the substance as an intoxicant, or cause or permit the intoxicating substance to be used or consumed as an intoxicant,
(iii) the possession, growth, use, consumption, sale, transfer or exchange of a controlled substance, as defined in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (Canada), in contravention of that Act,
(iv) child sexual abuse or activities related to child sexual abuse,
(v) prostitution or activities related to prostitution,
(vi) the commission or promotion of a criminal organization offence,
(vii) the accommodation, aid, assistance or support of any nature of a gang or criminal organization or any of its activities or the facilitation of any of its activities, or
(viii) any other use prescribed in the regulations;”
Based on the very few cases decided under this act, I am unclear as to the ambit of this act.  Also over the years I have grown weary of hearing City of Calgary Police Officers advising me or my clients that the matter in concern "is a civil matter".  The existence of this act sheds some light on the fact that the Alberta Government has contemplated some circumstances when the most appropriate remedy may be to allow the "Police" to deal with what the Police have historcially often described as a civil matter.