Minister Tyler Shandro tells hearing his family was the target of threats, harassment

Justice Minister Tyler Shandro is testifying at a Law Society of Alberta hearing in Edmonton. He faces three complaints of unprofessional conduct. (Mike Symington/CBC - image credit)
Justice Minister Tyler Shandro is testifying at a Law Society of Alberta hearing in Edmonton. He faces three complaints of unprofessional conduct. (Mike Symington/CBC - image credit)

Alberta's Minister of Justice Tyler Shandro told a hearing Wednesday that a tidal wave of harassment and threats against him and his family were "perpetuated" by members of the Alberta Medical Association.

The minister is in the midst of a conduct hearing before the Law Society of Alberta, where he faces three complaints of unprofessional conduct that date back to his dealings with doctors and a member of the public as health minister in 2020.

Tyler Shandro was called as his own witness and spent Wednesday afternoon being questioned by his lawyer Grant Stapon.

He said beginning in the fall of 2019 through spring 2020, decisions he'd made as health minister — such as changing drug coverage and ending a physician compensation agreement with the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) — were causing increased anxiety.

Threats escalate

He said his security advisor compiled between 900 and 1,000 pages of threats of violence, death and otherwise.

In spring 2020, he said threats directed at his wife Andrea Shandro began to flood in, including threats of physical and sexual violence.

At the time, Andrea Shandro's operation of Calgary company Vital Partners had become the subject of public scrutiny.

Among other services, Vital Partners brokers supplementary health insurance, including for some coverage delisted through legislative changes advanced by Shandro.

Ethics commissioner Marguerite Trussler had said Shandro was not in a conflict of interest because he had transferred his shares in the company to a blind trust.

Testifying Wednesday, Shandro described the suggestion there was a conflict of interest as a "conspiracy theory."

He said the threats against his wife were causing a great amount of distress, and that at one point a man showed up at her office and told people he planned to attack her.

It is in this context, the minister said, that his wife received a message from Janice Fraser on March 20, 2020.

Tyler Shandro's response to Fraser is one of the three allegations of unprofessional conduct he faces.

Earlier on Wednesday, Fraser told the hearing she was familiar with his work as a lawyer.She was once a supporter of Shandro but had lost confidence in him.

Lost respect

Fraser, who said she has worked in constituency offices and who has had involvement with various political parties including the United Conservative Party, the Progressive Conservatives, the Liberals and Green parties, got involved in supporting Tyler Shandro's nomination for the UCP in Calgary-Acadia.

"He was genuinely concerned about fairness," she said.

But Fraser said she believed, despite Trussler's ruling, that the Shandros' involvement in politics and ownership stake in Vital Partners was a conflict of interest.

She said she visited the company's website, and sent a message to Andrea Shandro through a feedback form, writing that she'd lost respect for her husband and that all Albertans would consider it a conflict of interest.

"We will not forget!" she wrote before signing off. She told the hearing she was referring to not forgetting when the next election came around.

Power imbalance

Fraser said within an hour, she received a response from Tyler Shandro in which he accused her of sending a threatening email and told her to direct any further messages to him.

"Email her again and it will be referred to protective services," he said.

Fraser said she believed the minister meant he would contact the police, and said it triggered her PTSD and that she was "petrified."

"There was an imbalance of power between myself and a minister," she said.

She said she felt like she needed to do something to respond as a measure of self-protection, so she replied to Shandro, looping in media, police, various politicians and others.

"If I had been actually threatening, [then] protocol would determine that this should go to the Alberta sergeant-at-arms for review and they should be contacting me, neither of you should be!" Fraser wrote.

"However, your response to me is more than threatening and I will be providing this to the appropriate authorities as per this email."

She added that the incident made her lose confidence in the justice system and in Shandro specifically.

"I think it's important that people realize I would never hire Tyler Shandro as a lawyer again, or have him represent me," she said.

Engaging with affected parties

During his testimony Wednesday, the minister said his wife had noticed Fraser's message because she said she knew him.

He said Fraser could have contacted him, and that he found her message "inherently threatening."

"I think she knew going to Andrea . . . would be interpreted as threatening to our family," he said.

The minister said he believes that his response to her was appropriate and told his lawyer he doesn't think he did anything wrong.

Shandro also answered questions about another of the complaints — that he'd called two central Alberta doctors on their personal cell phones after-hours. He said he didn't know the numbers were private and that he was under the impression that they wanted to speak with him.

"I think politicians are expected to engage people affected by government policy," Shandro said.

Both of those physicians, and a third doctor who says he was intimidated when Shandro showed up at his home to confront him about a meme, testified at the hearing on Tuesday.

The hearing will continue Thursday, when Shandro is expected to continue testifying. His wife is also expected to be called as a witness.