Alberta premier orders review after report that staff pressured Crown prosecutors in COVID-19 protest cases

Alberta premier orders review after report that staff pressured Crown prosecutors in COVID-19 protest cases

Updated: 9 days, 22 hours, 20 minutes, 19 seconds ago

EDMONTON—Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says her government will review emails after a report that staff in her office had “pushed back” against Crown prosecutors’ descriptions of cases involving people criminally charged during the Coutts border blockades.

Smith revealed the measure in her first public comments since CBC News published its story Thursday.

The results of the review are expected early next week, Smith said Saturday morning during her weekly call-in radio show, “Your Province, Your Premier.”

Quoting unnamed sources, CBC said emails had been sent from staff in Smith’s office that “critiqued the prosecutors’ assessment of the charges and pushed back on the characterizations of the protest.”

The CBC report did not reveal the specific details of the emails.

“The CBC has said they don’t have the emails,” Smith said Saturday. “They did not provide us with names, and so I have asked for our independent public service to do a review of emails.”

Emails received by Crown prosecutors will be reviewed to “see if this email that the CBC is making reference to even exists,” she said.

That review is expected to take at least the weekend, said Smith, as it will involve 400 Crown prosecutors and 34 staff members in the premier’s office.

The Alberta NDP has called for an independent investigation.

“Albertans deserve an independent investigation,” said NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi in a statement sent out Saturday.

“Instead, Danielle Smith is hiding the truth behind IT processes and a caucus presentation meant to shore up her chaotic leadership. Albertans deserve better.”

A caucus meeting of Smith’s United Conservative Party was scheduled for Saturday.

“I want my caucus to understand the nature of the story, the fact that they’ve done a clarification, that they don’t have emails. They launched with the story, that we are now having to verify it,” said Smith.

She’s said that if such emails are found to exist, “we’d obviously have to take appropriate action.”

Smith has been asked repeatedly about recent comments in which she described speaking with Crown prosecutors about cases that are now before the courts involving COVID-19 restrictions.

She’s since maintained that she had contacted Justice Minister Tyler Shandro and the assistant attorney general, but not Crown prosecutors.

Smith narrowly won the UCP leadership race after criticizing pandemic public health measures. She said she’d look into a blanket amnesty for those charged with breaking COVID-19 rules.

On Saturday, Smith said she had heard many calls for forgiveness for those who were charged for violating public health measures intended to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“We have a number of public health orders that no longer exist. The people who enacted them are no longer there,” said Smith.

She has suggested previously that public health measures were implemented and charges were laid under “political” circumstances.

“It is in that context that I asked the Justice Department, the attorney general, is there reasonable likelihood of conviction and is it in the public interest?” she during the radio show.

“That is an appropriate thing to do.”

Smith said she was told to “be patient” and wait for the results of the ongoing cases.

Four men involved in the Coutts border blockade — which snarled traffic at the southern Alberta border for days in a protest against vaccination mandates and public health restrictions — were charged with conspiracy to murder police officers.

Other people were charged with mischief and weapons possession.

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