The Alberta Court of Appeals has ruled in favour of Pastor Artur Pawlowski who was arrested, jailed and fined for continuing to preach in breach of Alberta’s Covid-19 lockdowns. 

Pastor Artur Pawlowski, of the Cave of Adullam congregation in Calgary, became a prominent figure following an April 2021 Easter service, in which he threw armed police out of his church when they attempted to inspect it for Covid-19 compliance. He was arrested multiple times and held at Edmonton Remand Centre, Canada’s largest prison.

Now, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that the injunction against him, his arrest, his jail time, the censorship order and fines against him were illegal.

Justice Barbara Lea Veldhuis, Justice Michelle Crighton and Justice Jo’ Anne Strekaf ordered Alberta Health Services (AHS) to reimburse Pawlowski and his brother, Dawid, for the costs of their appeal and the return of any fines and penalties paid, Rebel News reports.

The appeals panel concluded the original injunction banning protests in the name of public health “was not sufficiently clear and unambiguous.”

The judgement released Friday morning reads, “The Pawlowskis’ appeals are allowed. The finding of contempt and the sanction order are set aside. The fines that have been paid by them are to be reimbursed. “

“The chambers judge awarded costs to AHS payable by the Pawlowskis jointly in the amount of $15,733.50, calculated at 2.5 times column 1. That costs award is set aside and the Pawlowskis are awarded their costs payable by AHS in the proceedings below and in this Court calculated on the same basis.”

Pawlowski’s lawyer Sarah Miller said the group is pleased that the Court of Appeal applied proper legal reasoning and precedent to overturn the finding of contempt and sanction against the Pawlowskis. 

“Alberta Health Services has pursued this matter against the Pawlowskis vigorously, and it is rewarding to have the Court of Appeal unanimously and soundly agree that injunctions and contempt proceedings must follow the rule of law and cannot be applied and sought so indiscriminately,” she said in a statement to True North. 

“Unfortunately for the taxpayers of Alberta, Alberta Health Services has needlessly pursued this matter and now must pay legal costs to the Pawlowskis on a matter that should never have proceeded as far as it did.”

Throughout the pandemic, Pawlowski continued to hold church services in defiance of a court order and was repeatedly arrested — including on the Calgary highway and on the tarmac of the Calgary International Airport.

During a 20-minute speech to Freedom Convoy truckers on February 3 in Coutts, Pawlowski urged demonstrators to “hold the line” against government overreach without resorting to violence. The truckers were protesting federal Covid-19 vaccine mandates, specifically a mandate that required cross-border truckers to be vaccinated. The group asked Pawlowski to preach while they protested along Alberta’s border with Montana. 

Following his speech, the pastor was arrested on February 7 for the fifth time since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Fox News. 

Before Calgary police apprehended him at his home, Pawlowski was planning to officiate another church service for the border protesters. 

The Crown prosecutor argued that Pawlowski issued “an overt threat to violence,” an allegation echoed by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. According to a video of his remarks, the pastor repeatedly told the truckers not to resort to violence during their protests.

He was held in Calgary Remand Centre, where Pawlowski alleges he was treated poorly. He said he was placed in a small metal cage for a time, not given water for a whole day and deprived of both his glasses and a Bible for several days. He also claims he was strip-searched repeatedly, spent many hours in solitary confinement and was made to sleep on cold concrete.

Shortly before his release on bail, Pawlowski was transferred to Edmonton Remand Centre.. There he was placed in the psychiatric ward, where he claims he shared a cell with a paranoid schizophrenic who told him he had killed his own brother with a machete.

“I said, ‘Oh my God, please. While I’m sleeping, please protect me,'” Pawlowski said.

“But you know, I was able to minister to him and pray for him,” he recounted about his cellmate.

Pawlowski said he had no answer for the AHS worker who checked on him and asked why he was placed in the mental ward, despite having no mental illness diagnosis.

Alberta Correspondent | + posts

Rachel is a seasoned political reporter who’s covered government institutions from a variety of levels. A Carleton University journalism graduate, she was a multimedia reporter for three local Niagara newspapers. Her work has been published in the Toronto Star. Rachel was the inaugural recipient of the Political Matters internship, placing her at The Globe and Mail’s parliamentary bureau. She spent three years covering the federal government for iPolitics. Rachel is the Alberta correspondent for True North based in Edmonton.

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