Alberta cops to meet to discuss blockade plans

Idle No More demonstrators march from Churchill Square to Canada Place in Edmonton AB, on Friday Jan. 11, 2013



CALGARY - Police in Alberta have asked for a meeting with Solicitor General Jonathan Denis to talk about Idle No More and the threat of blockades on the highway leading to the oilsands.

Denis will meet with the chiefs of police from Edmonton and Calgary along with the province's RCMP commissioner on Jan. 21.

"I take this very seriously but I'm going to let (law enforcement) direct the agenda," Denis said Tuesday.

Denis said the police need to strike a balance between the right to peaceful protest with what's in the best interest of public safety.

"I support the right to peaceful protest but also the right to mobility."

During a rally last week in Edmonton, Idle No More protesters vowed to shut down Hwy. 63, the main road used to carry workers in and out of the oilsands region in northern Alberta.

"I can promise you, Hwy. 63 to the oilsands plants will be shut down if things don't change for the better," said Chief Allan Adam, head of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

"I can't speak about plans being made, but I guarantee you talks are being had behind closed doors."

Acting Calgary police chief Trevor Daroux, stepping in for chief Rick Hanson while Hanson is out of town in meetings, said the challenge with any protest is to balance the rights of citizens to do so against the duty of police to ensure public safety and protection of property.

"While we support lawful protests, we hope it's in a manner that doesn't interfere with other people," he said.

"We have a lot of experience with these types of events in Calgary and have been able to reach that balance.

"We'll negotiate, we'll talk and we'll try to reach a peaceful solution ... when we feel it crosses the criminal threshold we have to make a decision of what action we take."

He said the meeting with Denis is an opportunity for policing partners to share information, explore best practices and discuss strategies.

Calgary police are consulting with the Crown to determine if any charges, which could range from offences under the Traffic Safety Act to mischief, will be laid in relation to a weekend protest here.

A spokeswoman said it could be weeks before that is determined.

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