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'Attempt to interfere:' Former Alberta justice minister officially removed from post

EDMONTON — Suspended Alberta justice minister Kaycee Madu was moved to another cabinet post Friday following a report that concluded he tried to interfere in the administration of justice over a traffic ticket.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney shakes hands with Kaycee Madu after Madu's swearing in as minister of municipal affairs in Edmonton on Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Madu would later become justice minister, but has been moved out of that portfolio over a call he made to Edmonton's chief of police after Madu received a traffic ticket. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON — Suspended Alberta justice minister Kaycee Madu was moved to another cabinet post Friday following a report that concluded he tried to interfere in the administration of justice over a traffic ticket.

Premier Jason Kenney, in a news release, announced that Madu takes over as labour minister from Tyler Shandro, and Shandro becomes the new justice minister.

“Given (the report’s) findings, and the unique role of the office of the minister of justice and solicitor general, I have concluded that it would be appropriate for minister Madu to step aside from that position,” Kenney wrote.

The report was requested by Kenney and carried out by retired Court of Queen's Bench justice Adele Kent.

Her report concluded that Madu tried to interfere in the administration of justice, but was unsuccessful.

Madu was given the ticket on March 10, 2021.

He was pulled over by Edmonton police and charged with distracted driving for looking at his cellphone behind the wheel.

Madu, who is a lawyer, has acknowledged that he called Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee shortly after getting the ticket, but said it was not to get it overturned.

He said he wanted to be assured that he was not being singled out for enforcement because he is Black or a cabinet minister.

Madu later paid the $300 ticket.

He could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.

The story came to light last month in media reports. Kenney said at the time that he had no prior knowledge of Madu’s call to the police chief, and he suspended Madu from his justice duties pending Kent’s report.

Kent, in the report, said that regardless of Madu’s motives, the expectations are clear for those who wield power and influence.

“Did Minister Madu attempt to interfere with the administration of justice? He did,” wrote Kent.

“In Canada, the rule of law is the foundation for how society operates,” she added. “Canadians understand that principle to mean that everyone is treated the same. 

“In the case of a traffic stop, there is a process to deal with traffic tickets and with any concerns about police behaviour. Phoning the chief of police directly is not an option nor is it appropriate.”

Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said seeking to interfere with justice must be a firing offence for a cabinet minister.

“For Jason Kenney to allow (Madu) to stroll down the hall into another ministry and continue to sit as part of the province’s executive council is unforgivable," said Notley.

“This is utter contempt for the rule of law.”

Political scientist Lori Williams called the report striking.

"(Kent) concluded that there's a reasonable perception that Mr. Madu interfered with the administration of justice, which one would think would be grounds for removing him from cabinet.

"I would be surprised if, with a finding like this, any other cabinet minister in Canada would be kept in cabinet.”

Williams, with Mount Royal University in Calgary, added, “This wasn't the only choice available to the premier.

"It's hard to imagine this could look much worse."

Kent interviewed McFee, Madu and the officer who issued the ticket.

The officer said in the report that he was conducting speed and traffic enforcement in an unmarked vehicle when Madu drove by in a blue Ford F150 pickup truck. Madu was within the speed limit, but had one hand on the wheel and was staring at a cellphone with the other.

The officer pulled Madu over. He said Madu insisted he wasn’t on his phone and was “moderately argumentative."

“(Madu) then asked whether the constable knew who he was,” wrote Kent. 

“He said he was the minister of justice three or four times during the discussion at the window.”

The officer added that Madu told him “he could not be guilty because he is the minister of justice and would not break the law.”

Madu said he mentioned his justice title once and it was after the ticket was issued. 

The report said that within the hour Madu was on the phone to McFee, who was on vacation, to ascertain if he was being singled out because of his race or job title.

McFee said Madu wasn’t being racially profiled, and Kent said she found no evidence to prove otherwise.

All agreed that Madu never asked for the ticket to be cancelled or not issued.

Shandro becomes Alberta’s fourth justice minister in the three years since the United Conservative Party was elected. Sonya Savage, who took over for Madu while he was suspended, continues as energy minister.

Shandro, also a lawyer, faces an upcoming Law Society of Alberta hearing to determine if he breached code of conduct rules.

It's alleged Shandro went to the home of a member of the public and behaved inappropriately, that he used his position as minister of health to obtain personal cellphone numbers, and that he responded to an email from a member of the public by threatening to refer that person to the authorities.

— With files from Alanna Smith in Calgary

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2022.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said Kaycee Madu was justice minister, but he was a minister without a portfolio.