Alberta Court of Appeal unanimously overturns finding of contempt against TDF-funded client Pastor Artur Pawlowski.
Calgary: TDF is proud and delighted to announce that the Alberta Court of Appeal has set aside findings of contempt against Arthur and Dawid Pawlowski and has ruled that compelled speech and mobility sanctions against Chris Scott from the Whistle Stop Café violated the Charter.
The appeals, which were funded by TDF, have their origins in the “Rooke Injunction,” which is an ex parte injunction applied for by Alberta Health Services and granted by Justice Rooke of the Court of Queen’s Bench Alberta. The injunction prevented “illegal public gatherings” in contravention of public health orders.
Pastor Pawlowski and his brother Dawid were found to be in breach of the injunction after holding church services in violation of public health orders. In today’s unanimous ruling, the Alberta Court of Appeal set aside the contempt on the grounds that the ex parte injunction was not sufficiently clear and unambiguous in its application to the Pawlowskis. The court ordered that the Pawlowskis should be reimbursed for the fines they paid as a result of the contempt.
Chris Scott of the Whistle Stop Café had also been found in contempt of the injunction, in his case for organizing a planned event that was attended by 300 to 400 people. Mr. Scott appealed his sentence, which controversially restricted his freedom to leave Alberta. Even more controversial was that the sentence required Mr. Scott to recite a script anytime he spoke in public against government orders and recommendations. The script, which was drafted by the sentencing judge, was favourable to the very public health orders that Mr. Scott opposed.
The Court of Appeal set aside these mobility and compelled speech sanctions. They noted that the Charter right to free expression includes freedom from being compelled to express a particular message and found that both the mobility and speech sanctions unreasonably infringed Mr. Scott’s freedom Charter rights. A new sentence was imposed, which set aside these sanctions and reduced Mr. Scott’s fine by $10,000.
Artur and Dawid Pawlowski were represented by Sarah Miller of JSS Barristers. Chris Scott was represented by Chad Williamson of Williamson Law and by Scott Nicol. Both appeals were funded by The Democracy Fund.
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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.