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Smith responds to allegations staff member emailed Alberta Crown Prosecution Service over Coutts blockade

After a report surfaced Thursday about allegations that a staffer for Premier Danielle Smith emailed the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service to question their judgment on some cases, the premier’s office has issued a statement saying “this is a serious allegation” and “appropriate action will be taken” if the allegations are true.

The CBC reported Thursday that it was told by sources that the relevant emails were sent last fall and mentioned “cases stemming from the Coutts border blockades and protests.”

The CBC has agreed to keep its sources anonymous, saying they fear they could lose their jobs for speaking out. Global News has not seen the emails in question.

Last week, Smith announced she was no longer looking into giving pardons to people found guilty of breaking public health rules related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ MORE: Alberta premier says she won’t pursue COVID pardon legislation on advice from justice officials

She said she had been speaking with provincial justice officials about the cases, prompting some to raise concerns she was inappropriately interfering with the justice system.

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Smith later offered different accounts of who she talked to and when about the matter.

Last week, she said, “I ask (Crown attorneys) on a regular basis, as new cases come out: ‘Is it in the public interest to pursue and is there a reasonable likelihood of conviction?’”

At the same time, Smith said at the time she would allow the court process to play out. Later, Smith said she only had discussions with Justice Minister Tyler Shandro and his deputy attorney general about the matter.

“At no time have I communicated with Crown prosecutors,” said Smith in a statement last Friday. “My language may have been imprecise in these instances.”

READ MORE: Alberta NDP: ‘A lot of lying going on’ about premier’s role in COVID-19 prosecutions

In a statement earlier this week, Justice Department spokesperson Jason Maloney said, “the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service has confirmed that the premier has never spoken with any Crown prosecutors about any court/legal matters that they deal with. No further action is therefore required.”

Global News reached out to Smith’s office on Thursday for comment on the CBC report.

“Premier Smith has not been in contact with Crown prosecutors and has no knowledge of anyone on her staff having done so,” a statement from her office reads. “This is a serious allegation. If a staff member has been in touch with a Crown prosecutor, appropriate action will be taken.

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“The Alberta Crown Prosecution Service operates independently of government and political interests. Crown prosecutors base their decisions on the law and merits of the matter before them. They will continue to use their own discretion in making decisions for each individual case without political interference.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta NDP calls for judicial interference investigation after Premier Smith comments'

Alberta NDP calls for judicial interference investigation after Premier Smith comments

When asked for comment, Alberta Crown Prosecution Service spokesperson Michelle Davio told Global News that “neither the assistant deputy minister of the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service nor the Crown prosecutor involved in the Coutts files have any recollection of receiving any emails from the premier’s office.”

“Such communication would be exceptionally rare and as such, would stand out,” Davio added. “However, without seeing the emails in question, no further comment can be provided.”

In 2022, protesters occupied part of the highway near the Canada-U.S. border at Coutts, Alta., for 18 days in opposition to COVID-19 measures.

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READ MORE: 2 charges withdrawn against Alberta woman in Coutts border blockade case

A number of people were arrested and charged in connection with the blockade, including four men who face charges of conspiracy to murder RCMP officers.

Opposition MLA Rakhi Pancholi is scheduled to hold a news conference Friday morning about the reports of alleged interference by Smith’s office in the prosecution of the Coutts cases.

More to come…

–With files from Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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