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Alberta premier to file legal action over 'misinformation'


Alberta Premier Danielle Smith fired back at allegations of her interference with the province's justice system since she took office, calling them "inaccurate, misleading and likely defamatory reporting," and said legal action will soon be taken.

Speaking at an announcement about the government's plan to make it easier for international workers to come to Alberta – the first time she's been available to the media in some time – Smith said she's "been clear" that she nor anyone in her office have contacted any Alberta Crown prosecutor.

"Alberta's Crown Prosecution Service has confirmed this to be true," she said. "To continue saying or suggesting otherwise, is malicious.

"As this matter is now likely to be subject of legal defamation proceedings, I will not be commenting on it further as per the advice of counsel on the matter."

The statement comes after a video was posted last week of her phone call with Artur Pawlowski, a Calgary street pastor who is on trial for charges connected to last year's border blockade in Coutts, Alta.

During the conversation, Smith is heard telling Pawlowski that one of her goals since becoming premier was to address COVID-related charges against Albertans.

Criminologist Kelly Sundberg, who teaches at Calgary's Mount Royal University, says the premier’s remarks to Pawlowski pushed the boundaries of what is right and wrong in her position.

"I don't think that it is illegal, but I think from an ethical perspective; I do find it to be unethical," he said.

"It's really astonishing that this individual who is currently before the courts, was able to get 11 minutes with the premier to discuss his case. I find that astounding and frankly, quite concerning."

CTV legal analyst and practicing lawyer Ari Goldkind says the premier played the conversation with Pawlowski very well.

Goldkind says Smith knew where the line was, and did not cross it.

"Pearls can be clutched," he said.

"I am not at all convinced that she's done anything that's worthy of the political scorn her political opponents are pushing her way."

He says political undercover stings such as hidden cameras like this case can be damaging to one's career.

"They usually say something that ruins them," said Goldkind. "That's not the case here. She was on brand, and very careful to not cross the line."

During the call, Smith also told Pawlowski that there is "no mechanism" for her to force "them to drop cases."

Political scientist Trevor Harrison at the University of Lethbridge says Smith was very precise with her language on the phone call.

"You can say, I've been misconstrued and misinterpreted but as a politician, you're supposed to be actually aware of what you say and to be very careful in what you say," said Harrison.


Smith, when asked if the phone call with Pawlowski was appropriate, said that she "sought advice from her justice officials on several matters."

"The advice that they have given is that there are matters that need to be resolved before the courts and nothing more can be done until those court cases are decided.

"I have always said I need to 'stay in my legal lane.' I said that as well in that interview – my legal lane is the only thing I can ask; is it in the public interest, is there a reasonable likelihood of conviction?"

The premier, fielding a question from a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reporter at the media availability, said she was also looking for a response from that organization.

"I'm also waiting for an apology for the misinformation in the story that you and CBC have written."

Smith did not specify who she might be suing, but CTV News has acquired a "notice of defamation," from Calgary-based Bennett Jones, that names the CBC and one of its reporters.

In the notice, it demands the media outlet to retract a series of online articles it wrote about Smith's alleged interference, as well as publish an apology online and in its news broadcasts.

The letter also set out a timeline for this to take place.

"Should you fail to comply with this request by Friday, April 28, 2023, the premier will take such further legal action as may be advised," it reads.

"We hereby provide notice of our client's intention to bring an action against the CBC, as may be required under the Defamation Act."

In the meantime, the CBC has said it stands by its reporting.

No lawsuit has been filed so far. Top Stories

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