On January 1, 1996, the Civil Enforcement Act of Alberta came into force. Under this new Act the Government was able to achieve certain goals. Some of these were:
- streamline the debt collection process;
- update the law on enforcing money judgments;
- eliminate duplication between the Sheriff's Office and the Personal Property Registry by combining the information at the Personal Property Registry to provide a one-stop province-wide registry;
- provide new business opportunities for the private sector by outsourcing the activities of the Sheriff's Office to improve availability and delivery of services, and achieve significant cost savings for the Government.
Effective January 1, 1996 Sheriffs' Offices throughout the province closed and seizures, repossessions, evictions and enforcing court orders were taken over by authorized civil enforcement agencies. At the same time, the Office of the Sheriff - Civil Enforcement was created as part of the Court Services Division of Alberta Justice to regulate the Civil Enforcement industry by responding to complaints and monitoring the civil enforcement agency activities. In addition, the Office of the Sheriff oversees civil enforcement agency and bailiff training.
In responding to complaints, the Sheriff may investigate. For the purposes of an investigation, the Sheriff has the power to enter any premises or location to inspect the premises, location, or any record or thing, and may make inquiries of any person regarding any record or thing, or any action taken by an agency, employee or bailiff. Where entry is refused, the Sheriff must obtain a court order authorizing entry. The Sheriff may also issue written directions:
- directing a person to comply with the Civil Enforcement Act or any other enactment;
- directing a person to comply with any agreement entered into with the Sheriff;
- governing the carrying out of civil enforcement proceedings;
- requiring a person to adopt certain practices or other procedures;
- prohibiting a person from carrying out civil enforcement proceedings or certain practices or procedures respecting civil enforcement proceedings.
Where a person has failed to comply with written directions of the Sheriff, the Sheriff may apply for an order of the Court requesting compliance.
The standard agreement entered into by the Sheriff with civil enforcement agencies enables the Sheriff to terminate the agreement under certain circumstances, including failure to comply with any laws or regulations applicable to civil enforcement agencies. The Sheriff may suspend or cancel an appointment of a bailiff if the bailiff:
- is convicted of an indictable offence or an offence punishable by imprisonment for 2 or more years;
- is convicted of a contravention of the Act or an offence under any law concerning fraud, breach of trust or intentional bodily injury;
- fails in the opinion of the Sheriff to comply with any provision of the Code of Conduct for Civil Enforcement Bailiffs;
- fails to pay a judgment for damages sustained by reason of an act or omission arising from the duties, functions or responsibilities of the bailiff;
- has made an untrue statement in the application for appointment as a bailiff;
- fails to comply with a written direction of the Sheriff;
- is not in the opinion of the Sheriff a fit and proper person to hold an appointment as a bailiff;
- fails to take ongoing training as required by the Sheriff.
Aside from the Sheriff - Civil Enforcement, there is still a Sheriff in each Court of Queen's Bench office to carry out the role provided for under the Jury Act. What used to be done by the former Sheriffs' Offices under the Jury Act, now continues through the Clerks' Offices.