The Alberta Health Services (AHS) has dropped a contempt of court application against Calgary pastor Tim Stephens after lawyers fought to have the application thrown out once it was revealed that Stephens was never served with the order he was accused of breaking.
On Friday, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which represented Stephens in court, announced that their application to strike the contempt charge was approved.
“Faced with this undeniable evidence, AHS has conceded that continued prosecution and attempts to have Pastor Stephens found in contempt of court are hopeless. This drops the case against Pastor Stephens completely,” wrote the JCCF in a press release on the matter.
Stephens was arrested and thrown in jail by Alberta authorities after leading Fairview Baptists Church in a service on May 16, 2021. Stephens was jailed for allegedly breaking a prior court injunction regarding a former violation of public health orders.
According to JCCF, Stephens’ arrest and jailing was unlawful due to two reasons, one being that Calgary Police Service officers handed the injunction to the wrong individual.
“First, the Thursday, May 6, 2021 injunction, which originally applied to all Albertans who had notice of its terms, was amended by Associate Chief Justice Rooke on May 13 to only apply to Whistle Stop Café and individuals operating in concert with or under the direction of Whistle Stop Café or its proprietor. Pastor Stephens has no connection to either party,” wrote the JCCF.
“Second, Pastor Stephens was never served with a copy of the court injunction, a prerequisite for the enforcement of an injunction. On May 9, 2021, Calgary Police Service (CPS) officers erroneously served a copy of the injunction upon another individual who is not Pastor Stephens. At no time did CPS ever serve the injunction upon Pastor Stephens.”
Additionally, JCCF lawyer Jay Cameron said that the outcome of the case proves that Alberta Health Service officials were more concerned with “punishing dissent” than following the law.
“By waging constant war on civil liberties and by refusing to justify demonstrably, with evidence put before a court, the ongoing violations of Charter rights and freedoms, it is AHS and the Alberta government who are disobeying the rule of law,” said Cameron.
In its statement Friday, AHS said it “strongly condemns the intentional disobeying of COVID-19 public health restrictions.”
The AHS says it will continue to enforce the order on “all other organizers of advertised illegal gatherings and rallies that breach COVID-19 public health orders.”