Friday, May 20, 2022

Justice Minister Casey Madu ‘backs off ministerial duties’ after calling Edmonton police chief over distracted driving ticket

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Premier Jason Kenney has asked Justice Minister and Solicitor General Casey Madu to step back from ministry duties, after reports he called Edmonton’s police chief after receiving a distracted driving ticket.

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CBC News first reported that Madu was pulled over on March 10, 2021 and fined $300 for being on his cellphone in the school area. Soon after, he called Edmonton Police Chief Dale McPhee to discuss the ticket.

Postmedia confirmed through court records that Madu was issued a ticket for operating a vehicle using a cellphone and paid a $300 fine two days later.

In a statement to Postmedia, Madu said that on the morning of March 10, he was pulled over by an Edmonton police officer who alleged he was driving on his phone. Madu says he disagrees, and that his phone is in his pocket.

Madu later spoke to McPhee.

“Due to the timing of the incident, I wanted to make sure that I was not being monitored illegally after the Lethbridge Police Service dispute,” he said.

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“I also raised concerns about the profiling of racial minorities in the media at the time.”

Madu said that McPhee assured him that was not the case.

“To be frankly clear, I did not request cancellation of the ticket at any time. I would never do that. However, in that particular call, I regret to raise the issue with Chief McPhee,” Madu said, adding that he paid for the ticket in full.

Edmonton Police spokeswoman Cheryl Shepard also confirmed that McPhee had received a call from Madu regarding the ticket on March 10.

“Minister Madu was concerned about stopping the traffic. Frankly speaking, he did not ask the chief to cancel the ticket. The ticket remains valid and was issued correctly,” Sheppard said in a statement.

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In a series of tweets late on Monday, Kenny said he spoke to Madu about the incident, adding that it is “essential that an independent administration of justice is maintained.”

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“That’s why I will appoint a respected independent investigator to review the relevant facts and determine whether there was interference with the administration of justice in this case,” Kenny said.

He has asked Madu to step down from his ministerial position, and Energy Minister Sonya Savage will serve as Justice Minister and Solicitor General.

Irfan Sabir, justice critic of the opposition NDP, meanwhile said that Madu’s actions were “totally unacceptable” and he is demanding Madu’s resignation.

“Regular Alberta drivers don’t have the ability to call their local police chief and discuss traffic tickets. Madu used his position as minister to initiate this conversation, and whether he asked the chief to cancel tickets. If asked to do so, it is political interference for him to discuss it,” Sabeer said.

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“There is a long standing parliamentary precedent which prohibits such behaviour. It is unfair for any cabinet minister to interfere in the administration of justice, even more so when it is directly related to his own personal interest, And it is completely unacceptable when there is interference, but the Attorney General.

Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt also believes Madu should step down.

“It’s a red line. You don’t call the judges. You don’t call the police chiefs about active cases. As a minister to the Crown, you just don’t do that,” Bratt said.

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“He is not a junior minister. He is the Minister of Justice. And even if the ticket was not about him, but a family member, a friend, an acquaintance, a neighbor, a stranger, it didn’t matter. When you are the justice minister, you don’t call the police chief.”

Bratt said that calling Madu McPhee is seen as political interference.

“Even if the police chief says, ‘Oh, he didn’t ask me to reverse the ticket.’ No, but he’s telling you about it,” said Bratt.

“He is telling you about the officer who did this. That’s pressure. You don’t need to write it. All you know is that there is a power imbalance with a justice minister and a police chief.

, With files from Ashley Joanou

ajunker@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/JunkerAnna

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