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Alberta Premier Says She Can’t Offer Pardons to Those Charged With Violating Pandemic Restrictions

EDMONTON—Premier Danielle Smith said she has looked into offering amnesty to Albertans who were charged with violating pandemic restrictions but is unable to do so within the parameters of Canada’s justice system.

Smith said she has to let “the process play out” in the courts without political interference.

The premier addressed the issue on Jan. 16, on the Shaun Newman podcast.

“Because we’ve been so influenced by the [United States], I think that some people think that the premier has the same power as they do in the States of clemency or offering pardons,” she said.

“That’s not the case in Canada,” which has a different criminal justice and legal system, she said. “Once things have been handed over for prosecution, politicians have to be hands-off.”

Epoch Times Photo
Supporters rally outside court as James Coates, pastor of Alberta’s GraceLife Church, attended a bail hearing. Coates was jailed for holding church services as normal during COVID lockdowns. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

In October 2022, shortly after being elected premier, Smith said those who had not received COVID-19 shots were “the most discriminated against group” she had seen in her lifetime, and promised to restore the freedoms and constitutional rights that were infringed upon by government restrictions before she took office.

“The things that come to top of mind for me are people who got arrested as pastors and people given fines for not wearing masks,” Smith said last fall.

“I’m going to look into the range of outstanding fines and get some legal advice on which ones we are able to cancel and provide amnesty for. My view has been that these were political decisions that were made and so I think that they can be political decisions to offer a reversal, but I do want to get some legal advice on that first,” she added.

Smith said this week that she has made changes within her power, and has held the medical profession and the medical professionals involved in pandemic policy-making accountable for “flawed” advice.

“We’ve got brand new leadership at the chief medical officer of health. We also have new leadership at the helm of Alberta Health Services [AHS],” she said, noting the AHS board had been dismantled, and an interim official administrator, Dr. John Cowell, had been appointed in its place.

Smith added recruitment efforts are underway for a new chief medical officer of health, and the cabinet leadership had been changed.

“Those are the things that I can do to give people some confidence that I listened to and heard the things that I have under my power. I’m doing everything I can to make sure that we get as an adjustment to an endemic world,” said Smith.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.

Marnie Cathcart

Marnie Cathcart is a reporter based in Edmonton.

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