Alberta Premier Accuses CBC of Publishing ‘Defamatory Article’ With ‘Baseless Allegations,’ Calls for Apology

by EditorT

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith speaks at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce meeting in Calgary, Alberta, November 18, 2022. (REUTERS/Todd Korol/File Photo)

By Marnie Cathcart

EDMONTON—Alberta Premier Danielle Smith issued a statement Wednesday accusing CBC News of publishing a “defamatory article containing baseless allegations” suggesting that staff in her office had sent multiple emails to Alberta crown prosecutors concerning ongoing legal matters.

This concerned “charges related to the Coutts protest and other pandemic-related matters before the courts,” said the Jan. 25 statement.

“The CBC admitted that it had not seen any of the emails,” it added.

The defamation allegations stem from a Jan. 19 CBC article, headlined: “Alberta premier’s office contacted Crown prosecution about Coutts cases: sources.” The article cites an anonymous source that alleges an unnamed staffer in the premier’s office “sent a series of emails” to the crown prosecution service regarding charges laid in connection with the protest at the Coutts border and other protests.

The article was amended after the fact by editors, to clarify CBC “has not seen the emails in question.”


Smith’s statement said the CBC article was then used by the Official Opposition to “smear the reputations of the Premier, her office staff,” as well as crown prosecutors and the public service.

Following the allegations in the CBC article, the province’s non-partisan public service commission and IT experts conducted an investigation, announcing that over a weekend, they had searched nearly a million government emails sent during a four-month period. The investigation concluded there was no evidence of contact between the premier’s staff and the crown prosecution service, which CBC reported.

The statement, issued Jan. 25, said the premier was calling on the CBC “to retract its outrageous story and, further, that the CBC and the Official Opposition apologize to the Premier, Premier’s Office staff, Alberta Crown prosecutors and those in the Alberta Public Service, for the damage caused to their reputations and that of Alberta’s justice system.”

The same day the statement was issued, CBC ran another story headlined: “Premier pressured justice minister’s office to get rid of COVID charges, sources say.”

The CBC article cites multiple, unnamed “sources familiar with the interactions,” and quotes a “source” as saying there were “inappropriate” attempts to influence cases before the court, with exchanges between the premier’s office and the office of Justice Minister Tyler Shandro.

CBC alleges the source stated, “Smith would ask for updates on cases or inquire whether it would be possible to abandon them.”

The cases in question, according to the anonymous source, related to the prosecution of Calgary pastor Artur Pawlowski, and charges laid against individuals involved with the Coutts border protest in 2022.

CBC did not immediately respond to requests for comment. However, Chuck Thompson, head of CBC public affairs, told a CBC reporter on Jan. 23 that the organization is standing behind the article.

Smith said in her statement that she campaigned for seven months “on exploring ways to grant legal amnesty for individuals charged with non-violent, non-firearms, pandemic-related violations.”

Ultimately, after discussions with ministry officials and the minister of justice, Smith said she received legal advice to not proceed with “pursuing options for granting amnesty.”

“The Premier followed that legal advice,” said the statement.

“All communications between the Premier, her staff, the Minister of Justice and Ministry of Justice public servants have been appropriate and made through the proper channels,” added the statement. “The CBC’s allegations and insinuations to the contrary are, once again, baseless.”


Marnie Cathcart
Marnie Cathcart is a reporter based in Edmonton.

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