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CHAT News reported that two officers in Lethbridge admitted to several counts of misconduct over their surveillance of former NDP environment minister Shannon Phillips, seen here speaking to media in Ottawa on Oct. 24, 2018.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Alberta’s police watchdog will review a case involving two police officers who were reportedly disciplined for conducting improper surveillance of a cabinet minister during a heated debate about the future of an outdoor recreation area.

CHAT News, based in Medicine Hat, reported that the officers with Lethbridge Police admitted to several counts of misconduct over their treatment of Shannon Phillips, who was environment minister in the previous NDP government, in April of 2017. CHAT News posted on its website a 30-page disciplinary decision that says Constable Keon Woronuk and Sergeant Jason Carrier received temporary demotions after external investigations by police forces in Calgary and Medicine Hat.

The document says the officers admitted to photographing Ms. Phillips while she was at a meeting at a Lethbridge diner. Constable Woronuk also admitted to following a vehicle driven by one of the attendees and looking up information related to that vehicle using a national police database.

Ms. Phillips said she had raised concerns at the time about being photographed by uniformed officers, which she knew were investigated. She did not learn until this week that an officer had followed one of the attendees of the meeting and searched the police database.

“It’s hard for me to feel safe in my own home because of this,” she said during a news conference on Monday evening.

“It is terrifying that law enforcement would abuse their power and contravene my rights in this way. … Using police power to stalk and intimidate a minister is the stuff of police states.”


Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer issued a statement that described the case as an “egregious” abuse of power.

Mr. Schweitzer said the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, or ASIRT, which investigates serious allegations against police officers, would review the previous investigations and determine whether there are grounds for a criminal probe. He said ASIRT would have access to a province from outside Alberta if they require legal advice during their work.

“To say it is completely unacceptable that members of the police would conduct unauthorized surveillance of any Albertan — in particular an elected official — is an understatement,” said Mr. Schweitzer’s statement.

The incident happened several months after the government created Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park in southwest Alberta and limited all-terrain vehicle use. The officers were friends who frequently visited the Castle region and opposed any restrictions, the document obtained by the TV station notes.

The document says Sgt. Carrier was on a meal break when he spotted Ms. Phillips at a diner, where she was meeting with local stakeholders about the Castle parks. He took a photograph of Ms. Phillips and sent it to Constable Woronuk, who arrived shortly after and also took a photograph of the minister.

After the officers left, they had a conversation outside the diner in which Sgt. Carrier told Constable Woronuk that he would “hate to see Phillips drive away from the restaurant and there was a reason to stop her,” according to the document.

Sgt. Carrier waited inside his car in a nearby parking lot with a partial view of the diner and saw Ms. Phillips leave.

Constable Woronuk waited in a parked vehicle outside the restaurant until one of the stakeholders, who is not identified, left the meeting. The officer followed that person’s car and at one point used the Canadian Police Information Centre database to conduct a search about the vehicle. He texted a photograph of the search results to Sgt. Carrier, according to the document.

Constable Woronuk then posted a photo of Ms. Phillips to Facebook using a pseudonym. The post included a long caption criticizing Ms. Phillips and the NDP government, the document says.

The officers each pleaded guilty to several charges under the province’s Police Act.

Sgt. Carrier acknowledged that his comment about stopping Ms. Phillips could have been construed by Constable Woronuk as tacit approval for his decision to follow a vehicle as it left the meeting.

Constable Woronuk was demoted from the rank of senior constable level two to constable first class for two years.

Sgt. Carrier was demoted to senior constable level two for one year.

Lethbridge Police did not return a call seeking comment.

Constable Woronuk’s lawyer couldn’t be reached.

Dan Scott, the lawyer who represented Sgt. Carrier, said in an e-mail statement that his client did not know that Constable Woronuk had done after leaving the diner until weeks later. He said Sgt. Carrier recognized an error in judgement and has taken full responsibility.

“He specifically stated at the disciplinary hearing that policing requires transparency within and outside of the organization,” said the statement.

“He takes those principles seriously and that is why he cooperated fully during the investigation and the discipline process.”

Mr. Scott noted that the disciplinary decision described the officer as a “consummate professional” and concluded the 2017 incident was out of character.

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