Alberta Premier Responds to Allegations of Staffer Contacting Prosecutors on Group Charged at Coutts Blockade

Alberta Premier Responds to Allegations of Staffer Contacting Prosecutors on Group Charged at Coutts Blockade

Updated: 2 months, 10 days, 10 hours, 47 minutes, 56 seconds ago

Alberta Premier Responds to Allegations of Staffer Contacting Prosecutors on Group Charged at Coutts Blockade

Following a report that said a staffer for Alberta Premier Danielle Smith had emailed the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service in regard to the case of a group charged with firearms possession at last year’s Coutts border blockade, the premier’s office has issued a statement saying the report is “a serious allegation” and will take appropriate actions if the accusations are proven true.

CBC News reported on Jan. 19 that the emails, sent by Smith’s staffer last year, challenged the Crown prosecutors’ assessment of the case, in which 13 individuals were accused of possession of a weapon, and among them, four were also accused of conspiracy to commit murder. CBC cited sources whose identity was kept anonymous for fear that they would lose their jobs.

In a statement to CBC, the premier said she has not been in contact with Crown prosecutors and has no knowledge of anyone on her staff doing so.

“This is a serious allegation,” the statement reads. “If a staff member has been in touch with a Crown Prosecutor, appropriate action will be taken.”

Conflicting Statements

The statement came after Smith made corrections to her earlier comments that she had on different instances talked to prosecutors on their approach to cases related to the protests against the federal COVID-19 vaccination mandates and other restrictions. Her comments had been interpreted as being an interference with the judicial system and had caused uproar from the opposition.

In a December 2022 interview with Rebel News, the premier said questions regarding the Coutts case that she “can ask and have asked and continue to ask is: ‘Is it in the public interest'” and whether there would be a conviction.

“I’ve put it to the prosecutors, and I have asked them to do a review of the [COVID-19] cases with those two things in mind and I’m hopeful that we’ll see a true turning of the page,” Smith said during the Dec. 21, 2022, interview.

Speaking to reporters on Jan. 12 in Edmonton, Alberta, the premier also said she had contacted Crown prosecutors, CBC reported.

“We do have an independent justice department and independent Crown prosecutors, and I have asked them to consider all charges under the lens of ‘is it in the public interest to pursue?'” she said at the time.

Smith’s comments made on her Corus radio show earlier this month were also questioned. The premier said at the time that she had urged Justice Minister Tyler Shandro and his deputy attorney general to consider whether the cases were in the public interest and whether there was a reasonable chance of conviction before proceeding, reported CTV News.

The premier later made clarifications to her comments.

Speaking on her radio show, “Your Province. Your Premier,” on Jan. 14, the premier said she “may have used some imprecise language,” but she was referring to the Justice Department in her comments made on Jan. 12.

The Justice Department also issued a statement earlier this month supporting the premier’s clarification.

“The Alberta Crown Prosecution Service has confirmed that the premier has never spoken with any Crown prosecutors about any court/legal matters that they deal with. No further action is therefore required,” said Justice Department spokesperson Jason Maloney.

A spokesperson for the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service also confirmed to Global News that “neither the assistant deputy minister of the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service nor the Crown prosecutor involved in the Coutts files have any recollection of receiving any emails from the premier’s office.”

“Such communication would be exceptionally rare and as such, would stand out,” said spokesperson Michelle Davio. “However, without seeing the emails in question, no further comment can be provided.”

Questions From the Opposition

Member of Alberta’s opposition NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi said in a press conference on Jan. 20 that the CBC report published Jan. 19 was “extremely serious allegations,” reported Global News.

“These reports follow a series of reversals, contradictions,” she said, adding that even if Smith was only speaking with Shandro and the deputy attorney general about plans for prosecutions related to last year’s protests, she believes it may still constitute as “political interference” in the justice system.

In a Jan. 20 Twitter statement, Pancholi also reiterated calls on Shandro to launch an independent investigation into the issue. She previously endorsed fellow NDP MLA and justice critic Irfan Sabir who called for an independent investigation into whether Smith had interfered with the provincial justice system.

Coutts Protest

During the height of the Freedom Convoy protest in Ottawa last winter, protesters had road blockades at Alberta’s Coutts border crossing for over two weeks in solidarity with those gathering at the national capital, calling on the federal government to end the COVID-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions.

The protest ended shortly after the RCMP arrested the group that was charged with possessing firearms, while the protest organizers said they were not affiliated with that particular conclave.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.

Andrew Chen

Andrew Chen is an Epoch Times reporter based in Toronto.