Alberta government won't apologize for appointee critics say made racist, anti-Semitic posts

In a heated exchange in Alberta’s Legislature Monday, United Conservative cabinet minister Kaycee Madu accused the New Democratic Party of playing politics with Black people and says they are treated worse in countries governed by “NDP allies.”

UCP minister Kaycee Madu accuses NDP of playing politics with Black people

Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu, shown here at a news conference in February, has accused the New Democratic Party of playing politics with Black people. (Peter Evans/CBC)

Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu has accused the New Democratic Party of playing politics with Black people, who he said are treated worse in countries governed by "NDP allies."

In a heated exchange in the Alberta Legislature Monday, Madu, the UCP caucus's lone Black member, made the accusations after he rose to field questions from NDP justice critic Kathleen Ganley. 

She was attempting to extract an apology from Premier Jason Kenney or Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer for appointing Cold Lake lawyer Leighton Grey to the Provincial Court Nominating Committee (PCNC), which helps choose judges for the provincial court.

Grey resigned from the committee on Friday, hours before CBC News revealed he had promoted what experts characterized as sexist, racist, and anti-Semitic views and far-right conspiracy theories through social media. 

In response to a question directed to Kenney, Madu said that jurisdictions around the world where it has been "somewhat difficult" for Black people "are controlled by the left-leaning NDP and their allies.

"As I said, this is not a matter I am prepared as a Black man to allow the NDP to play politics with," Madu said. "And on this one, I am going to make sure that you guys do not play politics with Blacks."

MacEwan University sociology professor Irfan Chaudhry, who studies racism and discrimination, said any time a person of colour is put forward to answer questions about racism, "tokenism is always a concern."

Chaudhry said Madu's claim that Black people have more problems in left-of-centre countries is false. Research shows countries with left-leaning governments tend to have more programs that support and encourage diversity, he said.

Ministers refuse to apologize

Kenney, Schweitzer and Madu not only refused to apologize for Grey's appointment, Chaudhry said they "doubled down" on the initial comments by Grey. 

This is problematic, he said, because they're refusing to acknowledge the root issue of racism and how dangerous hate speech can be, especially from people who are in positions of authority.

Leighton Grey, a lawyer in Cold Lake, Alta., resigned from the Provincial Court Nominating Committee (PCNC) on Friday. (Grey Wowk Spencer LLP)

In answering the first question from Ganley, Schweitzer said only that Grey had resigned. "I have accepted that person's resignation. I think that speaks for itself. Racism is real. We have a lot more work to do as a society." 

NDP Leader Rachel Notley, in a news release, condemned Schweitzer's refusal to publicly criticize Grey's racist and anti-Semitic statements.

Schweitzer, she said, instead referred to Grey last week in the legislature as a "successful and able attorney," and argued that "a diversity of views makes bodies like the PCNC stronger."

"It sends a dangerous signal to hateful extremists when the Premier of Alberta is silent when these opinions are being promoted by his own appointees," Notley said in the release.

"It should be extremely concerning to any supporter of human rights in Alberta that neither the premier nor the Justice minister would apologize for this appointment, or commit to ensuring that this will not happen again," Notley said.  

"Jason Kenney must publicly condemn Leighton Grey's comments, and apologize for his Justice Minister's statement that prejudice has a place within a 'diversity of views.'"

On Monday, the Law Society of Alberta rescinded Grey's appointment from its adjudicator pool.

"While Mr. Grey's willingness to serve throughout his career has been notable, recent media reports, together with Mr. Grey's decision to resign from the Provincial Court Nominating Committee, resulted in the Law Society concluding that this step was appropriate," a spokesperson said in an email.

"The Law Society feels strongly that all our decisions must align with our commitment to uphold the public interest."

Grey called Black Lives Matter a 'leftist lie'

In dozens of posts captured by CBC News, Grey questioned whether too many women were being appointed as judges in Alberta and pledged to not consider diversity when choosing judges.

Grey denigrated George Floyd, the Black man recently killed by Minneapolis police, and called the Black Lives Matter movement a "leftist lie." 

He promoted extreme right, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that Jewish billionaire businessman George Soros was manipulating European judges and funding the worldwide Black Lives Matter movement "for his own evil agenda." 

Leighton Grey reposted his video and comment that claims Black Lives Matter is "a leftist lie" that's funded by George Soros, a Jewish philanthropist, with "an evil agenda." (Leighton Grey/LinkedIn)

As reported earlier this month by CBC News, Schweitzer purged the entire Provincial Court Nominating Committee and replaced them with several UCP supporters who had been recruited through a closed process. Schweitzer refused to answer questions about how Grey came to be appointed. 

Grey was the only criminal defence lawyer among the new appointees. At the time he was appointed, he was being sued by an Indigenous client for negligence in a wrongful conviction case. The lawsuit has been settled. None of the allegations were tested in court, and Grey denied any wrongdoing.