Edmonton police chief testifies at law society hearing about call from former justice minister Kaycee Madu

Edmonton Police Service Chief Dale McFee testified Monday about a phone call from Kaycee Madu that has the former justice minister facing the possibility of professional discipline.

A law society hearing is underway this week to determine whether Madu, who is a lawyer, engaged in unprofessional conduct when he contacted McFee on March 10, 2021, shortly after an EPS officer issued Madu a traffic ticket.

The Law Society of Alberta, which regulates lawyers in the province, issued Madu a citation last July.

A three-member panel will decide whether Madu engaged in conduct that "undermined respect for the administration of justice," according to the citation.

The officer said Madu had his cellphone in his hand while driving in a school zone in south Edmonton, and ticketed him for distracted driving.

At the time, Madu was Alberta's justice minister and the UCP MLA for Edmonton-South West. He lost his seat in the 2023 election.

McFee told the hearing Monday that he was on vacation when Madu called him, and after some initial small talk, he began taking notes on the back of an envelope at his hotel.

"It sounded like it just happened, and he was concerned about the ticket and just basically profiling, in relation to was it targeted because of his position," McFee said.

"I said, 'I highly doubt this is going to be profiling over a traffic ticket.' "

McFee said he told Madu that if he had concerns about the officer's conduct during the traffic stop, there's a formal complaint process he could look into, and when it comes to a ticket, he could either pay it or dispute it.

Edmonton Police Service Chief Dale McFee speaks about the charges laid in the line of duty deaths of Const. Brett Ryan and Const. Travis Jordan, in Edmonton on Wednesday November 29, 2023.
EPS Chief Dale McFee answered questions about a phone call from Kaycee Madu during the first day of a law society hearing. (The Canadian Press/Jason Franson)

"It was just telling him, these are the options. I didn't get any pushback on that. I called my chief of staff right after that to kind of give him a heads up on what transpired."

The chief said he also called another EPS official and the chair of the Edmonton police commission to tell them about the conversation as a "cautionary" measure, given he was out of the office.

Madu's lawyer, Perry Mack, asked McFee directly whether the former justice minister asked for the traffic ticket to be cancelled.

"No," McFee responded.

Madu denies he used any of the three cellphones he had with him that day while behind the wheel. He paid the $300 ticket two days after receiving it.

Madu's intent 'distorted,' lawyer says

Law society counsel Ken McEwan said Monday that he will present evidence this week that Madu identified himself as the provincial justice minister "more than once" during the traffic stop. By making the phone call, McEwan argued, Madu failed to adhere to the standards of conduct expected in the legal profession.

But Mack said while the ticket may have prompted the call to McFee, it wasn't the purpose of contacting the chief.

"The subsequent politics and media storm have distorted what happened and distorted the motivations and purpose of Madu's call," Mack said.

At the time, Madu was dealing with two major files: concerns around racial profiling in the police practice of carding or street checks, and serious allegations of misconduct in the Lethbridge Police Service with inappropriate surveillance of NDP MLA Shannon Phillips.

"[Madu] had to be sure, in light of these issues, that it was not a result of carding, not somehow related to what was going on in Lethbridge at the time," Mack said.

"Chief McFee assured him it was not either of those two problems. That was the end of the matter as far as Mr. Madu was concerned."

Previous investigation included in hearing evidence

Soon after CBC News reported on the call, then-premier Jason Kenney called on a retired judge, Adèle Kent, to investigate.

Kent concluded Madu attempted to interfere with the administration of justice by calling McFee, but did not successfully interfere.

She also concluded the phone call created a reasonable perception of interference.

"People in positions of influence or power like politicians, ministers of the Crown, judges and so on cannot use their position to obtain a personal benefit," Kent wrote in her report.

"In the case of a traffic stop, there is a process to deal with traffic tickets and with any concerns about police behaviour. Phoning the chief of police directly is not an option nor is it appropriate."

Kenney shuffled Madu into the labour and immigration portfolio after the report was released in February 2022.

Madu's lawyer argued Kent's report shouldn't be admissible in the law society hearing because her opinion came about through a "political process" she was drawn into.

He submitted that it wasn't legal proceeding where Madu had a chance to hear and respond to information given by the people Kent interviewed.

But the law society hearing committee determined the report will be admitted into evidence, with the ability to decide how much weight to give it.