Sleeping senior beats WestJet masking ticket

Prosecution drops charges against a senior for not wearing a mask after lawyer files Charter application.

CALGARY: The prosecution has dropped charges against Alec Bialski, a 76-year-old man who was arrested and charged for not wearing a mask on a WestJet Flight in June 2022. The charges were dropped earlier this month after Bialski's The Democracy Fund-funded lawyer, Sean Mihalcheon of Williamson Law, filed a Charter motion with the Provincial Court of Alberta.  

Bialski faced charges under the Canadian Aviation Regulations for not complying with instructions given to him by a crew member respecting the safety of persons on board an aircraft. 

The Charter application describes Bialski as having a respiratory illness which qualified him for a mask exemption but for which he did not have documentation. Bialski apparently told the flight crew that he had breathing problems, but they nevertheless insisted that he wear a mask when boarding the plane, and they continually monitored him for compliance throughout the flight. At one point, Bialski's mask fell off after he took medication to help him sleep.

Prior to landing, the WestJet flight crew reported Bialski to the Calgary Police, who arrested him as he was exiting the aircraft. Police then marched Bialski across the airport for more than 30 minutes to a holding cell in which he was locked. As Bialski had recently undergone double hip replacement surgery, he pleaded with the police to provide a wheelchair for him during the march. The police allegedly refused this request and did not provide Bialski with any meaningful opportunities to rest.

Bialski claimed that his arrest and forced march across the airport were "cruel and unusual" given his age and medical condition. He also claimed that his right to "life, liberty, and security of the person" was infringed by vague laws and that he was forced to choose between his own personal safety and complying with orders to wear a mask.  

As the prosecutor withdrew the charges, Bialski will not face any punishment. At the same time, his Charter application will no longer be heard.

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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. TDF supports an access to justice initiative for Canadians whose civil liberties have been infringed by government lockdowns and other public policy responses to the pandemic.