Former judge to review call from suspended Alberta justice minister to police chief
A retired judge from Alberta's Court of Queen's Bench is to determine whether suspended justice minister Kaycee Madu interfered with the administration of justice.
Premier Jason Kenney's office says Adele Kent will investigate a phone call Madu made to Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee 10 months ago regarding a traffic ticket.
“Kent will determine whether or not the call on March 10, 2021, constituted interference or an attempt to interfere with the administration of justice,” Kenney's spokesman Justin Brattinga said in a statement Monday.
“Minister Madu will provide his full cooperation and assistance.
“During this time, minister Madu will not participate in cabinet meetings and he will not receive his cabinet pay.”
Kent retired from the court last year.
She has been given a deadline of Feb. 15 and Brattinga said her findings would be made public.
Kenney suspended Madu from his justice duties last week after the phone call was revealed in media reports.
Madu has not spoken publicly about the matter but has issued statements on social media.
He has said he did call McFee about the ticket, not because he wanted it cancelled, but to seek assurances he wasn't being unfairly targeted because he is Black or held a high-profile government position. He said McFee assured him he was not.
Kenney's office said Kent is to decide whether, regardless of Madu's intent, the call could be reasonably viewed as an attempt to interfere with justice.
It said Kent “may obtain copies of documents or records directly relevant to the investigation and may conduct interviews with individuals that may have information that is directly relevant to the investigation.”
Critics, including the Opposition NDP, have said the review is not necessary.
They say regardless of intent, having a cabinet minister - especially the justice minister - call the police chief directly about a legal matter of personal interest breaches long-standing protocol on separation of powers and Madu must resign.
Kenney said last week the issue is not clear cut.
He noted that Madu did not ask for his ticket to be rescinded but instead raised larger concerns about issues, including racial profiling.
Kenney has said he knew that Madu had received a ticket but was unaware that Madu had called McFee about it until a week ago, when he directed Madu to step aside.
Political scientist Duane Bratt said the terms of reference for what the judge is allowed to look into are so narrow they call into question why an investigation is needed at all.
“I don't know how this is actually looking at racial profiling. Nor is it looking at when did Kenney know,” said Bratt, with Mount Royal University in Calgary.
Bratt said whether Madu meant to interfere in the administration of justice is an open question, but the fact people could view it that way is beyond doubt.
“(The perception) is an absolute yes. I don't know how you can say otherwise,” he said.
Madu, the only legislature member the United Conservative government has in Edmonton, had been justice minister since August 2020. He is serving his first term in the legislature.
On the morning of March 10, he was ticketed for distracted driving for being on a cellphone while behind the wheel in a school zone. He paid the $300 ticket soon after but not before reaching out to McFee.
Madu, in his statements, has disagreed with the ticket. He said his phone was in his pocket.
That prompted an angry response from Staff Sgt. Mike Elliott, head of the Edmonton Police Association, which represents rank-and-file officers.
Elliott said if Madu believed he was being unfairly treated, there is a complaint process that should be followed that doesn't include a direct call to the chief of police.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2022.
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