Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has asked the province’s Justice Minister to “step back” after Kaycee Madu admitted he phoned Edmonton’s police chief over a traffic ticket.
Mr. Kenney tweeted Monday evening that Sonya Savage, the Minister of Energy, will fill in for Mr. Madu while he takes a leave of absence. The Premier said he will appoint an independent investigator to review whether Mr. Madu interfered with the justice process.
The shakeup came after CBC reported that Mr. Madu received a ticket for distracted driving in a school zone and subsequently called the Edmonton Police Service’s Chief Dale McFee. The traffic violation took place March 10, 2021.
The Premier said he conveyed his “profound disappointment” to Mr. Madu when he spoke to him about the incident. It is unclear when Mr. Kenney learned of it.
“Minister Madu told me that he did not ask to have the ticket rescinded, nor was it his intention to interfere in the case, and that he promptly paid the ticket,” Mr. Kenney wrote on Twitter.
“I understand that Chief McFee has confirmed that at no time did the Minister seek to have the ticket rescinded.
“Nevertheless, it’s essential the independent administration of justice is maintained. That’s why I will appoint a respected independent investigator to review the relevant facts and to determine whether there was interference in the administration of justice in this case.”
The Edmonton Police Service confirmed Mr. Madu’s traffic violation and the subsequent phone call.
“Chief McFee did receive a phone call from Minister Madu in relation to a distracted driving ticket he was issued on March 10, 2021,” EPS spokeswoman Cheryl Sheppard said in a statement. “Minister Madu had concerns about the context of the traffic stop. To be clear, he did not ask the Chief to rescind the ticket. The ticket remains valid and was issued correctly.”
Mr. Madu was fined $300 for using his cellphone in a school zone, according to CBC’s report. The broadcaster said he paid the fine before the end of the week.
Mr. Madu’s office did not provide The Globe and Mail with a response to questions. The Premier’s office did not respond to a message. However, comments attributed to Mr. Madu were provided to other media.
In that statement, circulated by reporters on social media, Mr. Madu said he was pulled over on the morning of March 10, shortly after leaving his home. “The officer indicated that he had observed me driving while distracted, alleging that I was on my phone.
“I disagreed, stating that I was not on my phone, as it was in an inside pocket,” he said in the statement.
Mr. Madu, the first Black person to serve as a justice minister in Canada, said he later spoke to Chief McFee and brought up the Lethbridge Police Service, some of whose members illegally conducted surveillance on former minister of environment and parks Shannon Phillips, when the NDP were in power. One member of the force also unlawfully conducted a database search on one of her associates.
A week and a half after receiving the ticket, Mr. Madu gave the Lethbridge Police Service less than a month to provide an action plan or risk being disbanded.
“Due to the timing of the incident, I wanted to ensure that I was not being unlawfully surveilled following the controversy surrounding the Lethbridge Police Service,” Mr. Madu’s statement said. “I also raised concerns around profiling of racial minorities that was in the media at the time.”
He continued: “Chief McFee assured me that that was most definitely not the case, and I accepted him at his word.”
He said that while he never asked for the ticket to be revoked, he regrets raising the issue and promptly paid the fine.
The NDP called for Mr. Madu’s resignation after CBC published the story about the ticket and his interaction with the police chief.
“Regular Alberta drivers do not have the ability to call their local police chief and discuss traffic tickets,” justice critic Irfan Sabir said in a statement. “Madu used his position as minister to initiate this conversation, and regardless of whether he asked the chief to cancel the ticket, it is political interference for him to have discussed it all.”
Devin Dreeshen stepped down in November as Alberta’s minister of agriculture and forestry after CBC reported allegations of heavy drinking in his office, including code words for staff members to enter a locked room when liquor was flowing.
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