Alberta NDP seeks answers on premier’s interactions with accused in COVID cases

Alberta’s opposition NDP is asking Premier Danielle Smith to reveal all her conversations related to COVID-19 court cases after she admitted to having contact with an accused ahead of trial related to the US-Canada border blockade Was.

Smith has said she contacted Artur Pawlowski to tell him she could not grant him the pardon, but NDP justice critic Irfan Sabir said full disclosure to ensure the justice system was not being compromised. And an independent investigation – is needed.

“All of these claims made by the premier raise serious concerns about the independence of our justice system,” Sabir told a news conference in Calgary on Friday.

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Pawlowski went on trial earlier this month on charges of mischief and violating a release order for allegedly inciting people to block public property in Coates, Alta., the province’s main U.S. border crossing, in January 2022. He has also been charged under Alberta Critical Infrastructure. Defense Act on willful damage or destruction of essential infrastructure.

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Pawlowski’s trial is over and a decision date has not been set.

Other charges against Pawlowski relating to breaching nearly two-year-old COVID-19 protocols were stayed by the Crown in December.

Click to play video: 'Alberta premier defends discussion with Artur Pawlowski on amnesty'

Alberta premier defends discussion with Artur Pawlowski on apology

NDP legislature member and former Alberta justice minister Kathleen Ganley said she could not think of a situation where a former premier had contacted an accused before trial.

Ganley said this makes the job harder for front-line prosecutors, who are obligated to ward off outside influences and pursue cases based on public interest and likelihood of conviction.

“It puts (the prosecutor) in a terrible position. A sitting prime minister should never do this,” Ganley said.

“It would be incredibly strange to find yourself in a situation where you know your boss’s boss’s boss—whatever that is—is ultimately, potentially, intervening in a matter.”

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Smith’s office did not immediately respond to questions on who the premier spoke to while leader of the United Conservative Party government. His office also has not said whether he disclosed his contact with Pawlowski to Crown prosecutors.

Smith has been sharply critical of COVID-19 masking rules, gathering restrictions and vaccine mandates, questioning whether they were needed to fight the pandemic. He called the public health restrictions an intolerable infringement of personal liberty, which contributed to job losses, social unrest and mental health issues.

She promised to seek an amnesty or pardon for those charged with COVID-19 related crimes in her early days as premier, but later said it was not legally possible.

Click to play video: 'Alberta justice says probe found no evidence of emails between Smith's office, Crown prosecutors'

Alberta justice says investigation found no evidence of emails between Smith’s office, Crown prosecutors

On Thursday, in response to questions from reporters, Smith said she had spoken to Pawlowski earlier this year, but only to tell him she could not help him.

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“I said (to Pavlovsky) the same thing I have always said (to others) – that I asked for the opportunity to apologise. I was told by my justice minister that an apology is not available to a premier,” she said. It is only an option available with the Governor General.”

Smith said she has discussed with others facing charges for COVID-19 and told them the same thing, but declined to elaborate on who she spoke to or if she Was talking to him while working as a premier.

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Last year, several people connected to the Coutts blockade were charged after the RCMP found a cache of long guns, handguns, body armor, a large amount of ammunition and high-capacity magazines in three trailers. The four men were charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

For more than a month, Smith and his office have been dealing with questions and allegations related to his involvement in the COVID-19 court cases.

Smith gave several versions of what he said to justice officials, when and to whom.

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She initially said she spoke to prosecutors, then clarified that she spoke only to Justice Secretary Tyler Shandro and the Justice Department’s top civil servant, Frank Boscha, adding to the confusion until an “impure” word choice.

The government announced Friday that Bosscha would leave his role as of March 27 to become a provincial court judge.

Smith is also dealing with two recent CBC stories alleging that someone in his office sent e-mails to prosecutors questioning his approach to cases involving the Coutts blockade and Smith was involved in trying to influence the indictments.

Smith has denied the allegations and the Justice Department said a search of the emails over a four-month period turned up no results.

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