Blue Line

No charges for officers who surveilled Alberta legislature member: Watchdog letter

May 27, 2024  By The Canadian Press

May 27, 2024, Lethbridge, Alta. – Two police officers who broke rules when they surveilled a legislature member won’t face criminal charges, even though there are reasonable grounds to believe they committed a crime, says the province’s law enforcement watchdog.

In a letter to the lawyer for Lethbridge New Democrat MLA Shannon Phillips, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team says the provincial prosecution service has declined to take the matter to court.

“(The agency) determined that there were reasonable grounds to believe that two officers had committed criminal offences by accessing Ms. Phillips’ data,” reads the letter, dated May 17.

“The investigative materials concerning two officers were forwarded to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service to determine whether their test for prosecution was met. (The agency) received an opinion back that (the service’s) test for prosecution was not met and therefore these individuals will not be charged.”


The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team has not yet filed its full report on the investigation.

“(The agency) will soon be producing a public-facing report containing our investigative conclusions,” the letter says.

In 2017, Phillips, who was then environment minister, was discussing a proposed new park with a constituent in a coffee shop and was overheard by Lethbridge officer Keon Woronuk. Woronuk, a local all-terrain-vehicle user, was concerned that what he heard might have an impact on his hobby.

Woronuk subsequently posted photos of the meeting on a Facebook page under the name “Mike Corps,” which included identifying the stakeholders and a long caption criticizing Phillips and the NDP government.

That prompted Phillips to complain to Calgary police, who found Woronuk had conducted an unauthorized database search. Calgary police then passed the investigation on to Medicine Hat police.

Woronuk was later convicted of five counts of violating the Police Act. They included wrongly subjecting Phillips to a police database search, singling her and others out for traffic enforcement, misleading supervisors and using his position as an officer for political reasons.

The other officer, Jason Carrier, also an off-road enthusiast, was convicted on two counts under the Police Act — being an accessory to Woronuk’s offences and failing to report them.

Phillips said she was relieved at the police watchdog’s conclusions.

“We have at least some measure of accountability, that there’s been an acknowledgement of the deep harm and the personal cost that that harm did to me from the Lethbridge Police Service,” she said.

“It is unacceptable in a democracy that a duly elected person, a minister of the Crown is targeted and victimized by law enforcement simply because they don’t like her politics. And that is what happened to me.”

Phillips pointed to a number of other examples where the Crown has declined to prosecute despite the watchdog’s recommendations.

“What we have here is a structural systemic issue that our side of the house would certainly be welcome working with the government on to make sure that there are enough resources and expertise there,” she said.

“This is not ideological. Police accountability and oversight is something that we all have an interest in, particularly when it is so crucial to our basic institutions of democracy.”

Alberta Justice Minister Mickey Amery has said he will review the relationship between the watchdog and the Crown prosecution service.

In 2020, both Lethbridge officers received temporary demotions. Woronuk was demoted for two years and Carrier for one year.

Phillips appealed the sentences, but they were upheld. She has also filed a lawsuit against the Lethbridge Police Service.

One of the officers has since left the police force. The Lethbridge Police Service says an internal investigation into the actions of the remaining officer is underway.

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