“It's a very dangerous precedent”: Pastor Artur's lawyer reacts to guilty verdict

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Justice Adam Germain found both Pastor Artur Pawlowski and his brother Dawid guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on two charges of contempt of court, in a bizarre ruling delivered on Monday. Despite a great deal of flattery from Justice Germain towards the Pawlowskis’ legal counsel, in addition to his praise for the legal counsel of Chris Scott, who was also found guilty on the same charges, his written rulings offered dissatisfying responses to the challenges proposed by the counsels of the accused parties.

Justice Germain’s ruling also included references to a legal standard of “near certainty,” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” a less stringent standard which favoured Alberta Health Services (AHS). On the spectrum of outcomes, this ruling fell virtually entirely in favor of AHS. Nearly every counterpoint that had been provided by the Pawlowskis’ counsel was set aside in the ruling.

Oddly, the guilty verdict of the Pawlowskis hinged on the phrasing of a May 6 order by Justice Rooke which was so ambiguous as to apply to all Albertans. On May 13, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms sought clarification on the May 6 order, which was granted. AHS lawyers agreed to remove the ambiguous language in order to clarify that the order did not apply to Albertans at large.

In Monday’s ruling against the Pawlowskis, however, Justice Germain rather troublingly justified his finding of guilt based on the terms of the May 6 version of the Rooke order that were in effect for only five days — rather than on the clarified version of the order that was amended on May 13. You might expect that a judge would take into consideration a meaningful clarification on an order while ruling on its enforcement, but that evidently did not occur in this case.

This ruling has broader implications for others facing legal battles in the province, including the currently imprisoned Pastor Tim Stephens, as it may set a legal precedent that the Justice Rooke order could be interpreted as applying to Albertans at large, despite the May 13 amendment.

Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro are apparently exempt from the wide-sweeping application of the order, while Christian pastors are fair game. We look forward to legal clarification as to the reasoning why, but we won’t hold our breath.

I was joined by Sarah Miller of JSS Barristers for an update on the ruling and some details on the upcoming July 27 sanction court date for the Pawlowkis. We also discussed whether this ruling honours the responsibility of the judiciary to serve as a measured balance to AHS’s unilateral focus on the prevention of the spread of COVID without consideration of broader factors, such as the violation of fundamental Charter rights and widespread economic devastation.

Pastor Artur Pawlowski is not one to go down without a fight, and we know that his legal battle is not over yet. If you want to help Artur stand up to this questionable ruling, go to SaveArtur.com and donate now.

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