TDF-funded lawyers spend the day in court fighting for the rights of the dissident café owner.
RED DEER: TDF-funded lawyers Chad Williamson and Yoav Niv were in court Wednesday seeking disclosure in the ongoing prosecution of Chris Scott, owner of the Whistle Stop Café.
Scott was charged with seven violations of the Public Health Act and one violation of the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act in early 2021. The charges arise from an alleged series of protests against Alberta Health Orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If Scott is convicted, there is a possibility that he will face imprisonment.
Scott’s trial was originally scheduled for August 2022. However, soon after the trial commenced, Scott’s lawyers learned about the existence of undisclosed documentation in the possession of Alberta Health Services (“AHS”), which was relevant to Scott’s defence. The trial was therefore adjourned to resolve the disclosure issue.
Following the adjournment, approximately 1000 pages of email correspondence were disclosed to the defence. According to court submissions filed by Scott’s defence lawyers, the newly disclosed documents consisted of emails showing that there was high-level coordination between AHS, RCMP, and the Government of Alberta in prosecuting Scott.
The court material also suggests that the actions of AHS and the RCMP were motivated by concern over whether AHS would appear as effective enforcers of public health measures. One AHS staff member even expressed a wish that a COVID-19 case would arise from the Whistle Stop Café, presumably to justify the ongoing prosecution of Scott.
After receiving the copious email correspondence, Scott filed a Charter notice alleging that it was an abuse of process to target him for prosecution because of his outspoken disapproval of government action. Scott‘s lawyers are also seeking an order that the Public Health Measures are unconstitutional as they are inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
At yesterday’s hearing, Scott’s lawyers sought further disclosure from AHS, the RCMP, and others in relation to these Charter applications.
The purpose of disclosure is to protect an accused person’s right to make full answers and defence to charges, which includes the right to make reasonable Charter arguments. The main issue the court will have to decide in relation to Wednesday’s hearing is whether the sought-after disclosure must be produced by the crown or whether it constitutes “third-party disclosure,” in which case Scott would have to justify an order for its production.
The matter is set to return to court for a decision on the disclosure issue on May 9.
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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 access to justice initiatives for Canadians whose civil liberties have been infringed by government lockdowns and other public policy responses to the pandemic.