CALGARY — Justice Minister Tyler Shandro told a Law Society of Alberta hearing Wednesday into complaints about his conduct that he was protecting his wife and family.
Shandro, who was Alberta's health minister in 2020, took the stand in his own defence at the hearing that is looking into complaints that he committed professional misconduct on three separate occasions.
He told the hearing that there was an escalation of threats against him and his wife beginning in December 2019 through to March 2020. The United Conservative Party government at the time was embroiled in rocky negotiations with health-care unions and the Alberta Medical Association.
Shandro said he and his wife Andrea received between 900 and 1000 threats during that time.
"There were threats of physical violence, there were death threats, there were threats of sexual violence. Some of the most grotesque were voice mails that she (Andrea) had received that were quite distressing to her," Shandro said.
"It culminated on March 20 of somebody actually coming to Andrea's office to physically attack her."
Shandro said Calgary police were called and interviewed them.
He said he was shocked when a long-time supporter sent a note to his wife's office accusing the couple of being in a conflict of interest.
Janice Fraser said Shandro represented her family as a lawyer and she supported his run for office. Fraser said that changed after she sent a note to Andrea Shandro, one of the co-founders of Vital Partners, a health insurance agency.
"Dear Andrea, you and your husband Tyler Shandro (who I used to have a tremendous amount of personal and professional respect for up until 2020) are considered to be in a conflict of interest by Albertans. We will not forget," reads the comment posted on the company website.
Fraser said she was traumatized when she received an email from Shandro.
"Janice, sending threatening notes to my wife is completely inappropriate and must stop," Shandro replied.
"If you want to believe lies about her on social media that's up to you. But you can send your threatening emails to this office and this office only. Email her again and it will be referred to protective services."
Fraser said Shandro should have known the threat would trigger her post-traumatic stress disorder, which is related to the matters on which he had represented her in the past, so she reached out to various media outlets as a way of protecting herself.
"It was pretty scary. Protective services to me means the police and it felt extremely threatening. It petrified me," she told the panel.
"I had some PTSD about all of that terrible experience with the system and trying to get justice for my kids. So I was quite shocked that he would say that because he knew my past and he should have known that this would be quite triggering to a person with a criminal injuries background."
Shandro said his spouse was living in fear at the time.
"She had difficulty sleeping. She was worried that she would have to change her name. She was worried she would have to move to another province, that she would have to leave the business. It was a distressing time for her," he said.
Shandro said he saw the note addressed to his wife and not him as a threat.
"Directly contacting your spouse is inherently threatening," he testified.
"I think she knew by not going to me and going directly to Andrea would be interpreted as being threatening to our family."
Shandro also addressed complaints from two Red Deer, Alta., doctors over his obtaining their private numbers and calling them at home.
The two doctors had attempted to speak to Shandro at a government announcement and were angry he wouldn't stop.
Shandro asked his staff to find out who they were and didn't realize they were providing him with private phone numbers.
"In hindsight, Mr. Shandro, looking at all your engagement with those two individuals do you believe you did anything wrong as either a politician or a member of the law society or otherwise," asked his lawyer Grant Stapon.
"No. First when you are minister, in particular, minister of health, engaging with people who want to speak with you about various issues, and second because they're demanding it and I was being chided for not engaging with them on the 26th," he said.
"It was within the capacity as a politician, not as a lawyer. There was a constituency that wanted to have their voices heard when it came to public policy."
The hearing is scheduled to wrap up on Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2023.
Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press