Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has given a new version of her involvement in a controversial phone call with a Calgary Street pastor in which they discussed her upcoming criminal case related to COVID-19 public health measures.
Smith told his weekly phone-in radio show on Saturday that he took the call from Art Pawlowski because he thought it was going to be in the context of his role as leader of another political party.
She said that when discussions began on Pawlowski’s court case, she simply reminded the former head of the Alberta Independence Party that she had tried to secure amnesty for COVID accused, but was told by justice officials that the cases should be considered independent. One should play with form, and he accepted that advice.
She also stated that she strongly disagreed with Pawlowski’s “extremist views”.
“When we talked, I thought we were talking in terms of him being a leader of a political party because (Pavlowski) was the head of the Independence Party at the time,” Smith told his Chorus Radio audience on his show. your province your premier In response to a question from the host.
“It turned into a discussion about what I was doing with COVID Amnesty.
“And I have been very clear about what I was trying to do with the COVID apology. I campaigned on it (for the party leadership). I said I would look into ways in which we might be able to address non-violent, non-firearm-related, non-contempt-of-court related charges.
The 11-minute phone call took place in early January, before Pawlowski was due to go on trial on charges related to a 2022 protest at the US border in Coutts, Alta., over COVID restrictions.
He was charged with mischief for allegedly inciting people to violate the release order and block public property across the border.
He was charged with willfully damaging or destroying essential infrastructure under the Alberta Critical Infrastructure Defense Act.
The trial is over but the judge has not yet given a verdict.
A recording of the pre-trial phone call was obtained by the Alberta New Democrats and played to the media on March 29.
In response to the account presented by Smith on Saturday, NDP justice critic Irfan Sabir wondered why politics did not occur if the phone call was clearly meant to discuss politics.
Sabir said, “The entire call between Pawlowski and Smith is describing their efforts to stop these charges, either weekly calls to prosecutors or expressing their dissatisfaction to the attorney general and deputy attorney general.”
“This is another desperate move on the part of Danielle Smith to distract her from her attempt to stop the prosecution of Pawlowski and others at Coutts.”
Smith says he’s spoken to Pawlowski, other Albertans accused of protesting, violating health rules
Sabir reiterated calls for an early internal investigation into the matter before Albertans go to the polls for the May 29 provincial election.
Smith publicly acknowledged for the first time that he had spoken with Pawlowski when asked about it at a news conference on 9 February.
She replied that at the time she was engaged in discussions with those facing charges related to COVID, to tell them that she had discovered amnesty was not possible. He did not say whether the discussion with Pawlowski was about politics or that he expected to speak to him in his role as party leader.
When the NDP released the call recording seven weeks later, Smith announced that she would not discuss the issue publicly as she was considering defamation action and was acting on the advice of her lawyer.
Saturday’s clarification came two days after reporters asked Smith whether the call with Pawlowski meant his government had changed policy and politicians were free to discuss active criminal cases with accusers.
Alberta premier faces new allegations of judicial interference
Smith said there has been no change in policy. She said it is often closed for politicians to discuss active court cases with accused, but her call with Pawlowski was successful because of her job as an elected official to listen to and act on the concerns of members of the public. Is.
Legal experts say the calls were a clear breach of the firewall between politicians and the justice system to prevent politicians from having a say in who gets charged and how.
They note that while Smith is heard on the call reminding Pawlowski that she cannot directly intervene, she also admits that she is being questioned about the cases by justice officials “almost weekly”. .
On the call, Smith is also heard sharing with Pawlowski details of internal disagreements over Crown case strategy. She promises to inquire on Pawlowski’s behalf and report back to him, while also telling him that the charges against him were politically motivated.
Alberta premier spoke with COVID-19 protester Artur Pawlowski on call
She sympathizes with Pawlowski when he accuses the Crown prosecutor of a last-minute “document dump” of files that was intended to sabotage his defense.
Legal experts have also said that regardless of the context, Smith should have at least ended the call when Pawlowski raised the issue of his case.
Pawlowski is a controversial figure in Alberta for his high-profile, disruptive demonstrations against the LGBTQ community and COVID-19 health regulations.
The Alberta Independence Party announced it was splitting from Pawlowski as leader late last month, saying their values no longer align.
On the January call, Smith was heard saying to Pawlowski, “I’ve been watching your public advocacy for many years, so it’s nice to join you.”
She struck a different tone on her Saturday radio show.
“Obviously, Mr. Pawlowski holds some very extreme views that I completely disagree with,” she said.
Smith has faced questions about her involvement with prosecutors since telling the media in mid-January that she regularly reminds Crown attorneys that cases can only be pursued if they are winnable and be in the public interest.
She later retracted those comments, saying she did not speak to frontline prosecutors, but only to senior justice officials, as is appropriate. Her claim is supported by the Department of Justice.
Since then, Smith has offered, at times, conflicting, explanations as to who he spoke to, what was discussed, and when. She has said that the conversations were only about broad prosecution principles, but added that they were about issues related to the cases. He has said that the talks were going on and the talks were over.
Closing remarks heard at Artur Pavlovsky trial
On April 2, lawyers representing Smith sent a notice of defamation letter to the CBC demanding a retraction and apology for a January story. The article alleged that a member of his staff sent an email to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service challenging how it was handling court cases from the Coutts blockade.
While the CBC says it stands by its reporting, Smith has said a review found no evidence of contact between her office and the Prosecution Service.
That review also showed conflicting statements from the Justice Department about how old searches were conducted on any emails between the department and Smith’s office.
Smith said that his United Conservative Party, not the government, was paying for the trial. Smith’s office and the party have declined to say why the party is making the payments.
Smith has long been critical of the COVID-19 masking, stockpiling and vaccine mandate rules, questioning whether they were needed to fight the pandemic. He described them as intolerable violations of personal liberty.