Thanks to the ruling of a judge in Red Deer, it can now be reported that former United Conservative Party MLA Don MacIntyre is the Alberta politician who has been charged with sexual interference and sexual assault.
This is the fact that was known by virtually every politically alert Albertan, but could not legally be reported in public.
For anyone who wasn’t paying attention, news coverage following yesterday’s ruling by Justice Glenn Poelman solves the mystery of why the MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake resigned unexpectedly from the UCP Caucus on Feb. 2 and his seat in the Alberta Legislature on Feb. 5.
The publication ban was put in place by a Justice of the Peace when MacIntyre appeared in court to face the charges in Red Deer on Feb. 1. Justice Poelman described it as an error in law that seriously infringed on "freedom of the press to report on proceedings of court."
MacIntyre was elected in the 2015 Alberta general election as the candidate of the Wildrose Party, which merged with Jason Kenney’s Progressive Conservative Party to create the UCP in July last year. Kenney was elected UCP leader by members in October 2017.
Kenney, who was in Ottawa for the Calgary-based Manning Centre’s annual strategy and networking conference, issued a written statement, saying "I was shocked and disgusted to learn of the serious criminal charges against former MLA Don MacIntyre."
In a reference to the interference charge, which relates to crimes of this nature against minors, Kenney said "there are few crimes more vile than sexual crimes against children, and those found guilty of it deserve the most severe legal consequences possible," a statement that would seem to come close to urging a result in a judicial proceeding.
Notwithstanding Kenney’s justified concern, the question of what the UCP knew and when is a legitimate one that should be considered in the near future.
There has been talk in the halls of the Legislature of a police investigation involving an MLA since before the new year. During that time, MacIntyre was one of the three members of the UCP’s so-called "task force" on rural crime. He was the only one of the partisan committee’s three members to come from a truly rural constituency.
So the UCP should make it clear when party officials learned of the investigation, not just the charges. It is not clear if the UCP rural crime committee will continue its community visits.
Justice Poelman’s ruling yesterday illustrates, as was argued in this space last week, the need to update Canada’s publication-ban laws, which are intended to protect innocent victims of crime, to accommodate technological change in communications and deal with the realities of the Internet age.
Image: Legislative Assembly of Alberta
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