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Alberta Justice Minister Accused of Privacy Breach in Law Society Hearing

Shandro’s testimony allegedly violated the privacy of a witness by referencing secrets he gained in an official role.

Charles Rusnell 26 Jan 2023TheTyee.ca

Charles Rusnell is an independent investigative reporter based in Edmonton.

Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro appeared to seriously breach the privacy of one of the witnesses during testimony in his law society hearing Wednesday.

The alleged privacy breach of witness Janice Fraser by Shandro went unnoticed by the law society’s external counsel, the tribunal’s counsel, the three members of the tribunal and Shandro’s lawyer. It was reported to the law society shortly after it occurred to this Tyee reporter, Charles Rusnell.

After Rusnell reported the alleged privacy breach, the law society issued a warning to journalists late Wednesday afternoon not to publish the private information.

“It has come to our attention that information was shared today during Mr. Shandro’s hearing that was confidential regarding personal information about a Criminal Injuries Review Board Hearing,” the emailed warning stated.

During Fraser’s testimony Wednesday, she said she knew Shandro because he had written a decision related to her family when he was a member of the Criminal Injuries Review Board. Fraser had also testified she had PTSD related to the issues before the review board.

During Shandro’s testimony, his lawyer, Grant Stapon of Calgary, asked Shandro if he knew why Fraser had PTSD. Shandro’s single-sentence answer contained highly personal information about Fraser’s family.

Fraser was stunned Wednesday when told by Rusnell, before he alerted the law society, what Shandro had said in the open Zoom hearing, attended by members of the public, journalists and law society staff.

“What? He said what? He can’t say that. It’s confidential,” Fraser told The Tyee.

In addition to being Alberta’s justice minister, Shandro also has a King's Counsel designation, which means he is supposed to be learned in the law.

A lawyer representing the law society told Fraser Wednesday night that the law society will redact the sensitive information from the hearing’s transcript and the information will not be included in the decision. The lawyer also said the law society had agreed to Fraser’s demand to provide her with independent legal counsel.

The hearing was supposed to resume at 9 a.m. Thursday morning but the hearing tribunal went in camera for more than 90 minutes to determine what to do about the alleged breach by Shandro. When the hearing finally resumed, the panel chair said they would provide journalists with more direction about how to deal with the alleged privacy breach later in the day.

Shandro began his testimony on the second day of a three-day hearing that is to adjudicate three citations related to his behaviour during his time as Alberta’s health minister in 2020.

One citation relates to an incident in which he went to the home of a doctor and berated him on his driveway after the doctor posted a derogatory meme about Shandro and his wife, who are part owners of a company that offers private health insurance.

A second citation involves the breach of privacy of two doctors who had heckled Shandro at a funding announcement at Red Deer hospital. Shandro obtained the doctors’ names and personal cellphone numbers from Alberta Health Services and called the doctors at home at night.

Shandro’s third citation relates to an email he sent to Janice Fraser, who had contacted his wife’s insurance company through its website and told her she and Shandro were in a conflict of interest due to their private insurance company. Shandro threatened to send protective services after her if she ever contacted his wife again.

Late Thursday, the law society issued a formal publication ban to the media that prohibits news outlets from publishing or broadcasting “personal information in relation to Janice Fraser's family members.”  [Tyee]

Read more: Rights + Justice, Politics

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