Alberta passes controversial sovereignty law that could see province ignoring federal laws

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Alberta passes controversial sovereignty law that could see province ignoring federal laws

Alberta passed a controversial sovereignty act that could allow the province to ignore federal laws, setting the stage for a combative relationship with the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, and tense relations with Indigenous leaders.

After weeks of criticism over the proposed law, the United Conservative party passed Bill 1, the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act, after stripping away a contentious provision that would have allowed the provincial cabinet to bypass the legislature and rewrite laws.

After the passage of the bill, Alberta's premier Danielle Smith, who took power earlier this year after Jason Kenney resigned, said the law would allow the province to reset its relationship with Justin Trudeau's federal government.

It is not like Ottawa is a national government, said Smith. Our country works by a federation of sovereign, independent jurisdictions. They are one of the signatories to the constitution and the rest of us who are signatories to the constitution have the right to exercise their powers in their own areas of competence. If the laws are harmful to the province s interests or deemed a constitutional overreach, the bill sets the stage for Alberta to ignore federal laws or regulations.

Critics of the bill have warned that a law that directs provincial bodies such as schools, municipalities and city police to disregard federal laws will open the door to a wave of court challenges and is probably unconstitutional.

Salma Lakhani, the province's lieutenant governor, had previously said she needed to review the bill before granting assent, and that she would act as a constitutional fire extinguisher if needed.

Smith has been criticised by her own party about the law, which conservatives worry will scare off investors and businesses.

Rachel Notley, the leader of the New Democratic Party, condemned the bill as horrible, anti-democratic legislation and pledged to scrap it if her party wins the provincial election in May.

Indigenous leaders have criticized Alberta's legislation, as well as a similar bill that was recently passed in Saskatchewan.

We will not stand idly by. The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, RoseAnne Archibald, said on Wednesday that they will not allow it to happen.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, Treaty Six and Treaty Seven chiefs say that the sovereignty act infringes on their treaty rights and that any amendments to the bill aren't enough for them to support the law.

Rick Wilson, Alberta's Indigenous relations minister, told reporters that the new law respects treaty rights, but that the term sovereignty had caused confusion among Indigenous leaders.

There isn't a lot of clarification around what that means. Should we have done more consultation? He said that.

Trudeau didn't say anything about the bill, but he told reporters that his government isn't looking for a fight with Smith.

I'm not going to take anything off the table, but I'm not looking for a fight. He said that we want to continue to be there to deliver for Albertans. My focus is always going to be positive in terms of delivering for people right across the country.