He got a ticket, and then called the police chief. But the suspension of Canada’s first black justice minister attracts criticism from some

EDMONTON — The swift suspension of Alberta’s Justice Minister Kaycee Madu, in the wake of reports that he called Edmonton’s police chief after receiving a distracted driving fine, is attracting concern from some of the province’s black communities.

CBC News on Monday published a story describing how Madu, Canada’s first black justice minister, had received a ticket in March last year to use his cell phone in a school zone and later had a call with Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee discussing the ticket.

Both McFee and Madu said he never asked to have the ticket canceled. Madu said instead that he spoke with the police chief about concerns about racial profiling and police surveillance of politicians.

In response to the CBC report, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he asked Madu to take a temporary step away from his ministerial duties while an investigation was launched into “the relevant facts and to determine if there was interference in the administration of justice in this sag. “

“It’s important that the independent judiciary is maintained,” Kenney tweeted late Monday.

There is widespread criticism of Madu’s actions.

“You can not get the Attorney General to call the Chief of Police about a ticket, about an active case, especially one involving you,” Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University, told The Canadian Press.

Others, however, have viewed the case differently, saying the issues Madu is said to have raised are not only very legitimate, but the kind that they hope he would address in his capacity as justice minister.

Madu said in his statement that he called the police chief to make sure he was not racially profiled or under surveillance in his capacity as a politician.

‘I did not at any time request that the ticket be withdrawn. I would never do that. But in the particular call, I regret that I raised the issue with Chief McFee at all, “Madu said, adding that he paid the ticket” promptly. “

“The officer stated that he had observed me driving while distracted and claimed I was on my phone. I disagreed and said I was not on my phone as it was in an inside pocket,” Madu said. .

In recent years, data have shown that black and indigenous peoples were more likely to be stopped by Edmonton police.

Bashir Mohamed photographed here when he was the representative of Black Lives Matter Edmonton.

Bashir Mohamed, a former police co-chair with Black Lives Matter Edmonton, said he did not see what Madu was doing as being scandalous given the historical relationship between the police and black people in Alberta and the facts that have emerged up until now.

Madu also cited actions by some in the Lethbridge Police Service as grounds for his concerns about surveillance. When NDP MLA Shannon Phillips was environment minister in 2017, it turned out that some officers with the clothes had performed unauthorized surveillance of her.

“Everything that Minister Madu raises as a concern has actually happened in the past,” Mohamed said of the call. “It is clear that there are (are) problems with our police services in Alberta.”

“If you are a senior black person, then I feel that in a way you are expected to use your power to push back against feelings of racism,” he added.

It’s one thing if a justice minister tried to get out of a ticket, Mohamed said, but if that did not happen, then he does not see an ethical issue.

Mohamed said the situation has shed light on the issue of Albertans not being able to “really talk about police power and also systemic racism in police work.”

“Because here you have a case where a Secretary of Justice is actually using his power to pick up the phone and tell a police chief of one of the largest police services in Alberta that this is unacceptable,” he said.

The opposition NDP in Alberta, meanwhile, has called Madu’s actions unacceptable. New Democratic legal critic Irfan Sabir on Monday called for Madu to be fired from his cabinet post.

“Ordinary Alberta drivers do not have the opportunity to call their local police chief and discuss traffic tickets,” Sabir said.

“Madu used his position as minister to initiate this conversation, and whether he asked the boss to cancel the ticket, it is political interference for him to have discussed it all.”

But Calgarian Akolisa Ufodike, a board member of the Association of Black Conservatives and a professor at York University who has previously helped Madu with campaigns, called what happened to him an “ax job.”

“It’s very difficult in Canada, the United States, to be honest, to be black conservative,” he said.

Based on the reporting so far, Ufodike said the phone call was not about opting out of the ticket, but about his experience and the context in which the ticket was given.

Looking back on March last year, Ufodike said there had been one rash of attack on Muslim women in Edmonton as well as the Lethbridge surveillance issue. Meanwhile, racial profiling is a well-established problem when it comes to the relationship between black people and police in North America, he said.

“There’s nothing wrong with him contacting the police chief and sharing that experience because it helps give the chief context,” Ufodike said.

“So the next time he hears from people that he consults that discrimination, systemic racism, profiling is real, he can look at the experience of the most powerful black man in Alberta and use that as affirmative evidence.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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