Pastor Arrested for Defying COVID Measures Wins in Court Against Alberta Health Services

By Lee Harding
Lee Harding
Lee Harding
Lee Harding is a journalist and think tank researcher based in Saskatchewan, and a contributor to The Epoch Times.
July 22, 2022 Updated: July 24, 2022

The Alberta Court of Appeal has sided with Artur and Dawid Pawlowski and Whistle Stop Café Owner Christopher Scott in an appeal against Alberta Health Services (AHS).

The appeal concerned three orders by Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Adam Germain that said the three men were in contempt of a May 6, 2021, injunction granted to AHS that prohibited public gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pawlowskis appealed the contempt findings and sanctions, while Scott only appealed the sanctions.

In the decision released July 21, the Court of Appeal set aside mobility and speech provisions included in Germain’s orders. The court also agreed with the Pawlowskis that the injunction was insufficiently clear and was ambiguous. The court set aside contempt filings against the brothers, thereby removing the sanctions.

The court ordered that AHS must pay back the Pawlowskis for the costs they paid to the health authority after the Queen’s Bench proceedings, pay the brothers $15733.50 in court costs, and pay for costs on the appeal, estimated at around $18,000.

Court documents say the Pawlowskis were arrested shortly after the service of the injunction, having been deemed in breach of the order they had just been served. They were released from detention on May 10, 2021.

According to the brothers’ lawyer, Sarah Miller, Dawid Pawlowski was served by police during a Saturday morning service on May 8, 2021, but Artur never was. Nor was any explanation of the implications of the order provided by police.

“It’s very concerning, the lack of due process in this matter. And it was very shocking that this matter had gotten as far as it had before we had a court say, no, no, no, this is just not the way you are supposed to proceed on these types of things,” Miller told The Epoch Times.

“I was pretty shocked and appalled that the Pawlowskis had been arrested on such a vague and flimsy order. … Then to arrest them and detain them for three days, I was flabbergasted. I was so shocked and, and frankly a little bit concerned about the exercise of government authority.”

Miller said the approach contributed to the harm of her clients.

“For Alberta Health Services to continue to prosecute this as a civil contempt proceeding, I thought was ridiculous. I thought, there’s no way they’re going to be successful in this application,” she said.

“What happened when Justice Germain made his decision is that he wiped out all of that case law that says injunctions should be narrow in their application, they should be specific.”

Miller said allowing that precedent to remain could have led to broad suppression of protests by injunctions.

“Your protesters have now had the legs cut out from under them, because you no longer need to name them specifically. You no longer need to limit where your injunction is applying to.”

The Epoch Times reached out to AHS for comment but didn’t hear back before publication.

‘A Big Surprise’

Art Pawlowski, a pastor who leads Street Church and the Cave of Adallum in Calgary, made international headlines for repeatedly defying restrictions during pandemic lockdowns. In early 2022, after attending a rally at a roadblock on Highway 4 near Milk River, Alberta, he spent 51 days in custody where he was held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, according to news reports.

Pawlowski told The Epoch Times he was inundated with congratulatory emails and phone calls following the July 21 court decision. He called the verdict “a big surprise.”

“I pretty much gave up on the justice system. … And all three judges agreed that what happened was wrong and illegal. It’s quite amazing,” he said.

“Obviously, those judges were not willing to be just the puppets of the politicians.”

The pastor, who grew up in Communist Poland, said he was not properly served orders on May 8, 2021.

“They never served me documents. I’ve never even seen the court order. They dropped it on the ground while I was preaching, and yet later on, I was arrested in the middle of the highway for something that was never served by them,” he said.

“It’s always important to do what’s right, tyranny is always wrong, and you’re talking to an immigrant that escaped tyranny. … And right now, look what has been happening to me. The same tyranny followed me, if you will, into my beloved Canada.”

Miller said the threshold for proving malicious prosecution is high, but future steps are being contemplated.

“They were overly fixated on Artur. Part of it is because he is loud. He has an active social media. He garners attention, and that’d be positive and negative. So, people on his social media would be calling in to to Alberta Health Services or police,” she said.

Miller said the brothers had to arrange financing to pay “exorbitant fees and costs.”

“They’ve also been subjected to regular reporting to a probation officer [under]  probation conditions, which then resulted in probation charges when they protested in front of [Health] Minister [Jason] Copping’s house. It’s been significant, the ongoing toll for both of them, swelling from what  in my estimation was a misapplication of justice.”

Pawlowski believes more recompense is deserved.

“Well, we’ll see what happens, there has to be restitution, because if there is no restitution then we cannot talk about true justice,” he said.

“They’ve subjected me to ongoing hardship, my family, my brother, my wife, my children—financial hardship, slander, defamation of character. It caused me big harm for the past two years, doing this to me, including our arrests and what happened to me when I was arrested. That’s physical torture.”

Pawlowski expressed gratitude for those who donated to the Democracy Fund which helped pitch in to pay his legal fees, as well as those who provided encouragement.

“I just want to thank everyone that believes in us and in justice and supported us through all this crazy ordeal because we would not be able to do this without the massive support that we received from Canadians.”

The appeal court partially set aside sanctions against Scott, saying the procedure of the chambers judge against Scott was “an error in principle.” Proper sanctions against him were redefined to three days in jail and eight months’ probation, each of which have already been served, plus a $10,000 fine.

Lee Harding
Lee Harding is a journalist and think tank researcher based in Saskatchewan, and a contributor to The Epoch Times.