Alberta Crown Prosecutors Continue to Drop COVID-19 Tickets, More Withdrawals Expected

Alberta Crown Prosecutors Continue to Drop COVID-19 Tickets, More Withdrawals Expected
A sign from Alberta Health Services instructs people on good hygiene at Golden Acre Home and Garden centre in Calgary, Canada, on April 14, 2020. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)
Andrew Chen

Prosecutors in Alberta are continuing to withdraw tickets issued to residents who had defied COVID-19 public health orders.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom, a charity law firm that defends Canadians’ Charter Rights, announced on Tuesday that Alberta provincial Crown prosecutor has dropped three tickets, and a municipal crown prosecutor has revoked one.

“Public health officials are not the supreme law of the land—the Constitution is,” said Jay Cameron, litigation director for the Justice Centre. “A significant portion of the arbitrary and confusing public health orders which have so oppressed Canadian society are, on their face, unconstitutional and cannot be justified. As a result, many of the tickets issued for the supposed violation of such orders will never be prosecuted.”

Cameron said the mass withdrawal of COVID-19 tickets is likely to continue as prosecutors across the country “correctly decide to stay charges.”

The organization is representing nearly 100 people who were ticketed for violating provincial public health orders in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario.

The Justice Centre said the Crown prosecutor has withdrawn all COVID-19-related tickets issued to all of its clients who had participated in protests against government lockdown measures.

Cases of Withdrawn Tickets

In one of many cases, Trevor Marr was given a $1,200 ticket under the Public Health Act after randomly joining a protest rally on Dec. 19, 2020, in downtown Calgary. On Feb. 25, the Crown notified the Justice Centre that the ticket was withdrawn.

“I agreed with what the speaker was saying, the restrictions resembled Communist China more than freedom-of-speech-Canada. It felt good to live in a democracy where I thought we were free to protest!” Marr said, according to the Justice Centre.

Bernie Driedger, a primary care paramedic, was issued a $1,200 ticket on Dec. 22, 2020, for not wearing a mask while shopping at a grocery store in La Crete, Alberta. Driedger said a “nosy out-of-towner” was taking pictures of residents who refused to wear masks, and he believes the photo was sent to the provincial authorities.

“On a personal level, I believe wearing a mask is unnatural, unsanitary, and predominately anti God … I believe it to be symbolic. Wearing a mask shows the world I am easily compliant and am a willing participant in orders unsubstantiated by proper science or reason,” he said, according to the Justice Centre.

Driedger was suspended from work for three days because of the picture. His ticket has since been withdrawn by the Provincial Crown Prosecutor.

In Calgary, Ryan Audette was issued a $50 ticket for allegedly not wearing a mask while attending a demonstration against lockdowns in November 2020.

Audette was ticketed for not wearing a mask in a “public premise” as ordered in the Calgary Face Covering Bylaw. The Justice Centre said Calgary Police Service Constable L. Clarke, who issued the ticket to Audette, was confused about the Bylaw mandated mask-wearing rule.

On March 2, Calgary Crown Prosecutor Maggie Burlington ordered the ticket to be dropped.

Justice Centre President John Carpay said in a recent speech posted online that “when you violate those rights and freedom, the onus is on the government to show that those measures are actually doing more good than harm, and they have not met that onus.”

According to its website, the Justice Centre has filed court actions in five provinces to end what it believes to be “Charter-violating lockdowns.”