Bear Spray regulations and Marshals Services among policing announcements in Prince Albert

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald (L to R) Mayor Greg Dionne, Bronwyn Eyre, Paul Merriman, Alana Ross and Prince Albert Police Chief Patrick Nogier; provincial officials held a press conference on law enforcement initiatives at the main Prince Albert Police Station on Monday

The provincial government announced investments in major public safety initiatives across the ministries of Justice, and Corrections, Policing, and Public Safety at the Prince Albert Police Station on Monday.

Justice Minister and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre and Corrections, Policing and Public Safety Minister Paul Merriman alongside the Prince Albert Police Service and Chief Patrick Nogier announced a number of initiatives.

Among the announcements by Eyre were new provincial regulations to restrict the possession of capsaicin-containing wildlife control products (or bear spray) in public urban spaces.

The regulations also prohibit defacing or altering bear spray cans to hide or disguise their identity and enable police to seize the product. The regulations also mean suspects caught with the altered cans will be subject to fines.

Eyre said the regulations were created because of the thousands of incidents of bear spray used as weapons in urban areas.

“Police services across the province in urban areas were saying that they are dealing with this uptick in the thousands … and calling for some other way beyond just the penalties in the Criminal Code where you are reduced to only dealing with bear spray once it’s been used,” Eyre explained.

“We’re seeing hundreds of incidents in communities across the province and this limits seizure and finding only to urban spaces,” she added.

The most recent incident in Prince Albert was on June 1 when two officers and a 59-year-old Prince Albert man were bear sprayed.

Nogier said it is easier to get bear spray off the street than a handgun. He explained that when bear spray is deployed it can create panic.

“Peaceful protests and situations where there’s large gatherings, you bring one can of bear spray in those situations, and once that’s been administered you can have chaos (and) panic that causes a big issue for the community,” Nogier explained.

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Prince Albert Police Chief Patrick Nogier speaks during a press conference on law enforcement initiatives at the main Prince Albert Police Station on Monday.

Eyre emphasized that the new regulations are for urban setting and bear spray needed for hunting and hiking in rural areas is not affected by the new regulations.

“There is no reason anyone needs bear spray in a movie theater or in a park, or in a pool, or at the exhibition and, and that’s where we’re seeing the issues that it is. It’s spreading panic. It’s spreading unrest,” Eyre said.

Nogier said during his speech that there had been 671 incidents in the past five years, with 169 in 2023. Nogier explained that use of bear spray as a weapon could be tied anecdotally to gangs.

“There is some affiliation to street life and or gang activity,” he said. “You don’t see a lot of people just carrying bear spray around for legitimate safety purposes.”

Nogier added that officers do a great job investigating and dealing with incidents.

“There’s a certain threshold there to be met and a lot of times individuals who are involved in a bear spray incident aren’t as forthcoming and willing to provide police with the necessary requirements to have that full investigative capacity, so it’s nice to have another piece of gives officers options how to handle situation involving Bear Spray,” Nogier said.

Among Merriman’s announcements was a total of $7 million allocated this year to establish the Saskatchewan Marshals Service (SMS).

The SMS will provide an enhanced law enforcement presence, supporting and assisting the RCMP, First Nations and municipal police services across the province. The Service will address gangs, rural crime, illegal weapons and drugs, and work to apprehend high-risk individuals and offenders with outstanding warrants for their arrest.

Merriman said they are recruiting both in province and out of province.

“Anybody that’s applying to be a Marshall has to have a minimum of four years of service in policing somewhere in Canada, so we’re making sure that we’re not going to be pulling from police departments that are already low,” he said.

Prince Albert has been chosen as the site for the new SMS district headquarters. Renovations are currently underway and are expected to be completed on the SMS headquarters this fall, while the Service is expected to be operational by late 2026.

He said they have asked the Federal Government for more RCMP officers as requested by Assistant Commission Rhonda Blackmore and provided more municipal policing grants for 2024.

“We want to increase the police force across the province. We don’t want to rob from one police force to create another so we’re looking at that when we are recruiting those individuals to make sure we’re not pulling from depleted police forces,” he said.

The announcement was emceed by Prince Albert Northcote MLA Alana Ross.

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne and Councillors Tony Head and Dawn Kilmer were also on hand for the announcement.

Other initiatives announced on Tuesday

Ministry of Corrections and Policing initiatives include A total of $45 million has been invested by the provincial ($21.6 million) and federal A total of $45 million has been invested by the provincial ($21.6 million) and federal ($23.4 million) governments to support the First Nations Inuit Policing Program this year. This funding will support the First Nations Community Safety Officer pilot project, the self-administered File Hills First Nation Police Service, and community tripartite agreements that deliver dedicated RCMP policing services to 45 First Nations in the province.

The First Nations Community Safety Officer pilot enables First Nations to focus on high-priority, low- risk-to harm activities in their communities. This helps the police of jurisdiction remain focused on more complex community safety and serious criminal enforcement activities. After two years, a positive impact on public safety has been shown in communities involved in the project. As a result, the pilot has been extended by two years to allow for further review,

An investment of $2.2 million to support the delivery of the Electronic Monitoring Global Positioning System (EM GPS). Through a network of satellites, EM GPS allows Community Corrections staff to closely monitor clients’ locations and electronically prohibit them from visiting locations specified in their court orders.

Ministry of Justice initiatives include $4.7 million in courtroom safety measures, which include new, standardized distress button and monitoring systems across Saskatchewan courthouses, $2.85 million to install nine new video conferencing units in correctional centres

across Saskatchewan, which will enable accused to appear in court remotely and connect with lawyers virtually before court appearances, $1.4 million to support Public Prosecutions’ Major Case Assistance Unit to focus on the most serious and complex prosecution cases, Nearly $500,000 to support Public Prosecutions’ Case Readiness Unit, to move major cases through the justice system more efficiently and quickly and $990,000 for the Saskatchewan Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT), an increase of 20 per cent from the previous year, to hire a team commander and expand the team’s operational capacity.