By JASON UNRAU
Calgary pastor Artur Pawlowski says the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench “turned me into a CBC reporter” after Justice Adam Germain sentenced the outspoken street preacher for breaching pandemic restrictions.
The judge’s sentence included an order Pawlowski must accompany any future public criticisms of the province’s health edicts by repudiating himself.
“It’s like (Germain) hired me right now for CBC, turned me into a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reporter, telling the narrative of Justin Trudeau and Jason Kenney. It’s unbelievable,” Pawlowski said following sentencing for contempt of court, related to clashes with Alberta Health Services officials which ended in a dramatic arrest on May 8.
“This is compelled speech the judge ordered like in China and North Korea…I won’t comply and I’m fully prepared to go to prison.”
Crown prosecutors had recommended three weeks in jail for Pawlowski’s and his brother Dawid’s contempt of court breaches, but as Germain indicates in his October 15 written decision, “a short period of jail…will perhaps martyr them in the eyes of their followers.”
So instead Germain sentenced Artur to 18 months probation and Dawid one-year with respective travel bans outside of Alberta for the duration; $33,000 in fines and the final order, for when either “are exercising (their) right of free speech against AHS health orders or AHS recommendations, (they) must indicate the following”:
Pawlowski’s lawyer Sarah Miller called this sanction “compelled speech and unconstitutional” and intends to appeal that in a separate challenge. An appeal of Germain’s guilty verdict for the Pawlowksis’ contempt of court charges has already been filed, she added.
“Justice Germain crafted his decision to be about, what is Artur Pawlowski out there doing and saying? Is he going on a speaking tour and talking to people about his beliefs on COVID? Is he on the right side of science?,” said Mille,r of the sentencing decision.
“And that had nothing to do with Justice (John) Rooke’s order, or gathering in excess of 10 people.”
On May 6, two days before Pawlowksi was arrested by Calgary police, Alberta Health Services won an pre-emptive injunction at Queen’s Court Bench from Rooke against Whistle Stop Cafe owner Christopher Scott and those “acting independently or to like effect”.
The province sought the injunction after AHS shuttered Scott’s cafe on May 5 and he threatened and then followed through on an anti-lockdown rally, also on May 8.
Then the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms called Rooke’s injunction “the broadest restraining order in common law history” but by the time the centre won a variance the centre purported to excluded those outside Scott’s influence, Pawlowski had been arrested and charged.
On April 23, AHS had won a separate injunction against the Pawlowskis to inspect their church for health order compliance after they thwarted AHS attempt to enter the building on April 4.
“While the Pawlowski brothers were not identified by name in the Rooke Order, they were clearly on AHS’ radar…(and) made every effort to obstruct the police from doing their court mandated duty,” writes Germain in his sentencing decision.
“When the Pawlowskis left the church (on May 8), they were arrested in a spectacle, mirroring arrests seen in mass protests or Third World countries.”
Germain asserts that just prior to being taken into custody, Artur Pawlowski “was actually conducting a political rally wrapped up in the flag of a religious service”.
Germain noted the pastor went on a speaking tour of United States after being found guilty of contempt, “where he parlayed his title as a pastor and the fact that he had been arrested for holding a church service into a rally cry that attracted like-minded individuals.”
“Ooz(ing) with hubris, relishing in his notoriety. He got to take a picture with a governor of a U.S. state,” Germain wrote.
Bruce Pardy, executive director of Rights Probe and Queen’s University law professor called Germain’s “forced speech order the most egregious violation of freedom of expression.”
“Governments can force people to obey laws, but they may not compel them to say that they agree with them,” said Pardy.
“The Supreme Court of Canada has said that putting words in the mouths of people, even as remedies for unlawful conduct, breaches the freedom of expression in section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
The emergence of COVID-19 and related government mandates restricting civil liberties in the name of public health is not Pawlowski’s first run-in with authorities.
His Street Church ministry that feeds Calgary’s homeless was the target of city bylaw enforcement beginning 15 years prior until a provincial court struck down several citations in 2009; the judge describing the city’s behaviour as “excessive and, to any reasonable observer, an abuse of power”.
Pawlowski said he remortgaged his home several times to fight “hundreds of tickets” and after he ultimately prevailed: “they let me be…until the COVID came last April (2020), and I was told that if I don’t stop (feeding the homeless) I would go to jail. And then the tickets started again.”
The pastor is widely known for his harsh sentiment against authorities, noted by Germain in his decision where he takes umbrage at Pawlowski calling AHS and Calgary police “Nazis” and “Gestapo” as they attempted to enforce the court order at Street Church headquarters in Calgary.