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Alberta NDP calls for investigation into allegations staff in Premier Smith's office contacted prosecutors over Coutts protests


Despite denials from both the Premier's office and the Alberta Crown prosecutor's office, a CBC Calgary article says a staffer from the premier's office challenged Crown prosecutors via email on cases related to the Coutts border blockade and protests.

CTV News has not independently verified the emails.

The report comes about a week after Premier Danielle Smith said she had not been in direct contact with crown prosecutors, walking back from comments made to Rebel News last month saying she asked prosecutors to review and reconsider pursuing the cases.

Smith clarified to say she only had connected with attorney general Tyler Shandro and deputy attorney general Frank Bosscha regarding these cases.

Late last January, through Feb. 14, protesters gathered in Coutts in opposition of vaccine mandates related to federal pandemic rules -- several charges were laid and the cases are before the courts.

"This is a serious problem because the independence of the judiciary is sacrosanct in our system," said Jim Groom, political science instructor at Medicine Hat College.

CTV News received this statement from the premier's office: “Premier Smith has not been in contact with Crown prosecutors and has no knowledge of anyone on her staff having done so. This is a serious allegation. If a staff member has been in touch with a Crown prosecutor, appropriate action will be taken."


The NDP held a news conference in Edmonton on Friday morning, calling for an independent investigation into the allegations made in the media report.

"We believe it's critically important that Albertans know all the facts. But let's also be clear that the premier doesn't know what key members of her staff are doing. There's another problem going on with this premier, and her leadership in this province, this chaos cannot continue," said Rakhi Pancholi MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud and children's services critic.

Pancholi is also a lawyer.

She says the NDP are not calling for Shandro's or Smith's resignation, but a quick and thorough investigation.

"Albertans deserve to know and somebody who was impartial and able to assess this should be able to determine what see the content of those emails and get clarity around what exactly has taken place," said Pancholi.

She says she hasn't viewed the e-mails, and wants the investigation to address the allegations in the media.


Political watchers say there's some doubts about what may have occurred in the premier's office regarding emails to Crown prosecutors.

"If we find that it was done to no consultation with the premier, that's one thing, but if the premier ended up wearing this, it's going to be a little bit more of a problem for sure," said Groom.

The premier's office statement continued: "The Alberta Crown Prosecution Service operates independently of government and political interests. Crown prosecutors base their decisions on the law and merits of the matter before them.

"They will continue to use their own discretion in making decisions for each individual case without political interference."

A spokesperson for the justice and solicitor general and the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service also denies recalling any interference or improper correspondence.

An e-mailed statement to CTV News says: "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," said Michelle Davio.

It continued, "such communication would be exceptionally rare and as such, would stand out."

Davio also said without seeing the emails in question, no further comment can be provided.

Groom says these latest allegations may present a series of missteps which will erode public trust.

"If it is a one off and we get less and less of these, that's one thing. But if it continues to be chronic, I think we're really going to have the electorate start to pay attention to this and really have some doubts about competency," he said.


The lawyer for Marco Van Huigenbos says he does not want to comment directly on the allegations, as his client is scheduled for a jury trial in April 2024 for his role in the Coutts protests.

"We cannot comment on the case or the veracity of the allegations contained in the article as the matter is before the court. Generally speaking, public allegations or perceptions of political interference with a prosecution are very serious issues," said Yoav Niv, in an email statement to CTV News.

"Iit is fundamentally important that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done," he added. "We are watching the development of this story very closely.” 


Late Friday afternoon, CTV obtained an email from the office of Kim Goddard, the assistant deputy minister of the justice department, in which it was reiterated that there should be no interaction between Crown prosecutors and any elected official or political staffer to discuss a case.

"When such information is requested, my role as ADM is to personally and confidentially brief either the deputy attorney general or the Attorney General of Alberta only," Goddard wrote. "I will not brief other elected officials or any political staffers on details involving individual cases. If you are ever approached by any elected official or political staffer to discuss one of your cases it is imperative that you report such communication to your chief p-rosecutor or myself immediately." Top Stories

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