Legal argument filed in Pawlowski appeal

Lawyers argue prosecution was about policing words and opinion.

CALGARY: Lawyers for Artur Pawlowski have filed a written legal argument with Alberta’s Court of Appeal last week. The appeal seeks to overturn Pawlowski’s conviction for inciting mischief in relation to a speech he gave to protesters in Coutts, Alberta, in February 2022. According to a provincial court judge, the speech was intended to incite protesters to continue the blockade of the highway which led to the U.S. border.

The lawyers, who are funded by The Democracy Fund (TDF), have characterized Pawlowski’s prosecution as a “policing of words, opinion and language.” They argue that Pawlowski did not specifically encourage anyone to blockade the highway and that the trial judge’s finding was based on speculation and implication. That is not enough to meet the high threshold required for a criminal conviction. The lawyers further argue that other interpretations are better supported by the text of the speech, including the interpretation that Pawlowski encouraged protestors to imitate Poland’s solidarity movement by walking out of their jobs, thereby expressing solidarity with the truckers and “paralyzing the system” through a legal means akin to a labour strike.  

Even if the Court of Appeal is satisfied that Pawlowski actively induced mischief, the lawyers argue in their written materials that the trial judge nevertheless failed to properly consider statutory defences that act as safeguards against government overreach. These safeguards prevent a person from being convicted of mischief if they are only communicating information or if they act with legal excuse or justification. In this case, Pawlowski’s justification was the constitutional exercise of free expression.

Pawlowski received a 60-day jail sentence for delivering the speech, which he served in pretrial custody. While a successful appeal cannot restore lost time to Pawlowski, it can expunge his criminal record. More importantly, it can overturn a troubling precedent that puts a chill on freedom of expression.

The appeal is scheduled to be argued on September 10, 2024.

You can help fund the appeal by making a tax-deductible donation on this page.

About The Democracy Fund:

Founded in 2021, The Democracy Fund (TDF) is a Canadian charity dedicated to constitutional rights, advancing education, and relieving poverty. TDF promotes constitutional rights through litigation and public education and supports access-to-justice initiative for Canadians whose civil liberties have been infringed by government lockdowns and other public policy responses to the pandemic.

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