Calahoo Stonehouse’s conduct as an Edmonton police commissioner absent from ANDP leadership campaign coverage

Much of the media coverage of Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse’s NDP leadership campaign since her Feb. 24 launch has focused on her water policy and the fact that she is a First Nations woman , but little has been said about the public office she held immediately before becoming an MLA: commissioner on the Edmonton Police Commission.

Image capture from Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse's campaign launch video.

Calahoo Stonehouse, who is from Michel First Nation, became the first First Nation woman elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta in last year’s provincial election. 

She promised to make “kindness” the focus of her campaign, which she said makes her the ideal foil for Premier Danielle Smith’s divisive brand of politics. 

“I care about all Albertans because I grew up in the rural, I grew up with rednecks, I grew up with First Nations. I love them all and I understand their points of view. I’ll bring lots of love, care and compassion and strong leadership,” Calahoo Stonehouse told respected journalist Brandi Morin for a profile at the online news outlet Ricochet.

Calahoo Stonehouse’s background and how it informs her politics also got the spotlight in coverage of her campaign launch by Dani Paradis for APTN. But Calahoo Stonehouse’s policy commitments and personal anecdotes are not the only things to consider to understand her. From 2021 to 2023, Calahoo Stonehouse was a member of the Edmonton Police Commission (EPC) and her actions there reveal a great deal about her positions on the files of policing and public safety. 

In May 2022, amid heated debate over Edmonton Police Service’s (EPS) funding formula, Calahoo Stonehouse teamed up with commission chair John McDougall in an unsuccessful effort to have Councillor Anne Stevenson removed from the commission, because she employed an Indigenous advisor whom McDougall and Calahoo Stonehouse deemed excessively critical of the EPS. 

At a May 18, 2022, executive committee meeting, Calahoo Stonehouse demanded Stevenson be “immediately removed” from the police commission because she employed law student Robert Houle. Houle formerly sat on the city’s Community Safety and Well-Being Task Force, which wrote a 2021 report calling for police funding to be frozen, a proposed policy at odds with commission’s support for increasing the EPS budget. 

Houle’s appearance before city council that day to discuss his views on police funding, Calahoo Stonehouse claimed, represented a conflict of interest, despite the fact that Houle and Stevenson both disclosed their professional relationship before Houle spoke. 

Chair McDougall went further than Calahoo Stonehouse, smearing Houle as “anti-police, anti-Chief McFee, anti-mayor and anti-city council” in a media scrum after the meeting.  

Houle has spoken publicly about racist abuse he received from the EPS in 2005, when he and his brother were beaten and driven around the city in the back of a van for more than an hour.

The stated goal of the EPC is to provide “effective oversight” to the EPS.  

Houle filed a Code of Conduct complaint against McDougall and Calahoo Stonehouse, calling for them to be removed from commission. 

The complaint noted the “appearance … that Ms. Calahoo Stonehouse believes holding critical views on police is at odds with the best interests of the Police Commission.” Calahoo Stonehouse’s effort to have Stevenson removed from commission, the complaint alleged, violates the “integrity and impartiality of the commission and of city council.”

McDougall provided “absolutely no evidence to support” his contention that Houle is biased against the EPS, Chief Dale McFee, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi or Edmonton city council, the complaint added. 

The impression is Mr. McDougall is using polarizing language to silence those with criticisms surrounding police funding.”

It’s unclear what happened with Houle’s complaint, which was filed by lawyer Kate Engel. According to EPC minutes, it’s never been discussed in an open forum. 

Houle, who’s now finishing law school at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C., declined to comment for this story, as did Engel, with the lawyer citing solicitor-client privilege. 

But Calahoo Stonehouse remained on the EPC until she quietly took a leave of absence to run in the 2023 provincial election, winning Edmonton-Rutherford in a landslide with 64 per cent of the vote.

Calahoo Stonehouse’s campaign didn’t respond to an inquiry into how she reconciles the police commission’s mandate to hold police accountable with efforts to have a fellow commissioner removed for employing a police critic, and whether she regrets having done so.