'Political interference' with review board alleged in Matthew de Grood's appeal

The lawyer for Matthew de Grood, who was found not criminally responsible for the killing of five people in Calgary, alleges "political interference" by a former justice minister in the review board process. 

Calgary man was found not criminally responsible in the deaths of 5 people in 2014

Side-by-side photos show a young man on the left who is Matthew de Grood and former justice minister Doug Schweitzer on the right.
Matthew de Grood, left, remains under the control of the Alberta Review Board. His lawyer alleges former justice minister Doug Schweitzer, right, interfered with the board, stacking it with politically aligned members. (The Canadian Press, Andrea Huncar/CBC)

The lawyer for Matthew de Grood, who was found not criminally responsible for the killing of five people in Calgary, alleges "political interference" by a former justice minister in the review board process. 

De Grood is appealing the Alberta Review Board's 2022 decision to keep him in a 24-hour group home.

Former justice minister Doug Schweitzer is accused of interfering by stacking the board with members who were "aligned politically with the provincial government" and making public statements in support of more stringent release standards, according to a factum filed to the Alberta Court of Appeal by lawyer Jacqueline Petrie on Thursday.

In 2014, de Grood fatally stabbed Zackariah Rathwell, Jordan Segura, Kaitlin Perras, Josh Hunter and Lawrence Hong. At the time, he was suffering a psychotic break, having developed undiagnosed schizophrenia. 

After de Grood was found not criminally responsible (NCR) in 2016, he was placed in a secure psychiatric centre.

Each year, de Grood's treatment team provides an update on his progress to the Alberta Review Board (ARB), which then decides what privileges and freedoms are granted, if any. 

In 2019, the board allowed de Grood to live in a group home in Edmonton after the treatment team reported he was in remission and a "model patient." 

Schweitzer stacked the board, appeal alleges

After that decision, then-justice minister Doug Schweitzer made public comments saying he would advocate for changes regarding the standards of release and committed to requesting the Alberta Review Board ensure a maximum role for victims at hearings.

After the justice minister's tweets, then-chair of the board Jill Taylor resigned, saying she felt she had "no support" from Schweitzer.

The same day, Schweitzer released another statement, calling it an "opportunity for a reset" and committed to broadening the role of victims' families at hearings.

Over the next 18 months, he "directly recruited several new legal members to the review board, many of whom were aligned politically with the provincial government," including Gerald Chipeur.

'Close relationship' with government

Chipeur, who acted as chair at de Grood's subsequent hearings, is a "well-known Conservative lawyer in Calgary" who is a former adviser to former prime minister Stephen Harper.

In 2014, Harper's government amended the Criminal Code in an effort to impose tougher restrictions on those found NCR.

The application takes particular issue with Chipeur's "close relationship with the provincial government," particularly that while he was making his ARB rulings, "he was also travelling with then-premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney."

A recusal application was unsuccessful. 

The appeal argues the decision of the board "was not reflective of the actual risk he poses but rather is the result of political interference and public pressure not to discharge him or grant him the privileges he seeks."

De Grood asks for absolute discharge 

The appeal argues de Grood does not pose a "significant threat" to the community and has asked for an absolute discharge, which would mean he is no longer under the supervision of the ARB.

Petrie has asked the Alberta Court of Appeal to substitute its own decision rather than sending the matter back to the review board for a rehearing.

In 2016, at the first-degree murder trial, a Calgary judge heard that in the hours before the stabbings, de Grood sent ominous messages and told friends he thought the end of the world was imminent. 

De Grood, who had garlic stuffed inside his clothing at the time of his arrest, posted messages online talking about killing vampires and told people he was an alien, according to an agreed statement of facts.

A judge ultimately ruled de Grood was delusional at the time of the offences and did not understand his actions were wrong.

Families of the five victims have repeatedly opposed any additional freedoms or privileges for de Grood. 

The appeal will be heard next month.


Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary crime reporter

Meghan Grant is a justice affairs reporter. She has been covering courts, crime and stories of police accountability in southern Alberta for more than a decade. Send Meghan a story tip at or follow her on Twitter.