Chris Scott of the Whistle Stop Cafe is back in court today, fighting for his freedom against charges of being in contempt of court. A secret Alberta court order previously led to him being jailed for three days after he refused to comply with lockdown orders to close his business.
Sheila Gunn Reid will be providing live tweet updates on the hearing.
(9:00 AM MT/ 11:00 AM ET)
In virtual court to hear sanctions arguments in the contempt case of Chris Scott of the Whistle Stop Cafe, who was held for 3 days in jail for protesting the govt seizure of his property when he refused to close his doors to comply with the lockdown. SaveTheCafe.com
Scott, from Mirror AB pop 500, led the restaurant rebellion against the lockdown. Govt harassed him daily until they chained his doors. The govt sought a secret court order restraining his right to protest that act. But he did, went to jail for 3 days. FightTheFines.com
Rebel News has been helping Chris Scott through our partnership with the registered Canadian charity, The Democracy Fund. He's represented by Chad Williamson, the lawyer who won our right to participate in the leaders debates. To donate pls visit FightTheFines.com
Ok here we go. Justice Germain lays out the opposing positions. Alberta Health Services wants 21 days in jail and multiplied costs, just like they did for Pastor Art Pawlowski. Williamson says jail is unreasonable for a first time contemnor. A small fine makes more sense.
Kyle Fowler for AHS has the miserable task of arguing why a man should go to jail for breaching a secret order against his ability to protest seizure of his property by the govt. Scott held a 1500 person protest against the lockdown in a town of just 500
Scott was arrested after that protest and held in jail for 3 days. His protest against the lockdown was ruled to be an illegal public gathering, as laid out in the secret court order sought without the involvement of Scott's lawyer, Chad Williamson.
Fowler is saying the protest was a large scale public party. I was there. It was a definitely a protest, with speakers, signs and a coherent message. (I suppose AHS thinks it should have been more boring, with less music, and food. It was basically an Irish wake for our rights)
(the concept of happy warriors is totally foreign to these dour bureaucrats)
Oh, AHS is now bothered that Chris Scott's protest had some commercial success, as in people came to support him and he sold food/didn't give food away to the people who came. (Sorry, but he was already going broke thanks to the govt. What more did they want from him?)
Since Chris Scott's kids are older and because he has reliable staff, the AHS government lawyer is arguing that a custodial sentence for a first time contemnor is reasonable and serve as notice to the public to not circumvent govt public health orders.
AHS lawyer just said that Scott's "breach now, challenge later" strategy is improper and should not be tolerated. How does one challenge an order FIRST when AHS is getting these orders in secret without notice to the respondents' well known lawyers?
Ahh here it is. Because the public fundraised to help Scott buy the Whistlestop land when Scott's landlord was under pressure to terminate his lease, govt says a fine would be ineffective for him. Fines are for ppl no one wants to help? is that it? FightTheFines.com
And once again, the AHS lawyer is citing the ineffectiveness of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines issued to Trinity Bible in Waterloo and Church of God in Aylmer. (inferring that Scott, like those congregations, will not be kneeling before the govt anytime soon)
AHS is making their case for costs. So the government seized Chris Scott's biz, after waging a war on him for months, then they took him to jail for 3 days after they took his right to protest, and now they want $$ for their time working to prosecute him. They want $10922.25
The AB government wants 21 more days in jail and nearly $11 thousand dollars in costs for Chris Scott for the crime of not going broke quietly enough.
The judge has questions about Scott's crowdfunding. When the public saw that he went to jail for not closing his biz and his landlord got shaky, the public gave him money to buy the business. Justice Germain: "is it appropriate for me to disgorge those profits?"
Germain: this is person who appears to have profited greatly. It appears he has done mighty fine through this pandemic.
The judge seems confused. I don't think he understands that people willingly gave money to help Scott get rid of his landlord and that that people knew what they were giving him money for.
AHS mentions that legal fees for Scott are being paid by a third party. (that's Fight the Fines in partnership with the Democracy Fund)
Ok Williamson is up next. We have a five minute break first. Let us get a Bubly water and check the porch for Amazon deliveries.
(10:12 AM MT/ 12:12 AM ET)
Ken Johnston who is working with Williamson Law is addressing Germain now.
Johnston notes that Calgary police are protesting outside of City Hall against forced vaccinations. And now it appears there are connection problems with the court call. Could be me. Could be the court.
And I am back in. I think it was a me problem. Anyway, Johnston is arguing that others are currently protesting the lockdown now and that seems to be ok with the government. But they are going to throw the book at Scott for a protest where no one got sick.
Johnston is noting nature of the order that restrained Scott's right to protest. It was obtained ex parte, in secret, without his lawyer involved/ notified, without a hearing, or ability to argue against it. There is a reason for Scott to feel like he'd been dealt with unfairly.
Johnston also notes that Scott has filed a constitutional challenge to the order that he was found guilty of being in contempt of. So Scott may be sent to jail for 21 more days, and the order that enabled it may be found to be illegally improper at a later date.
"Scott did not run and hide. He did not show false contrition. He breached the order in public on principle." We have to look at Scott's behavior at the protest. 1. it was peaceful 2. he told the protesters to obey the covid rules 3. has been entirety cooperative.
(Scott is wearing his apron. I think he's at the restaurant)
Williamson is going to speak to Scott's finances. Because AHS is really hung up on the fact that the public continues to rally around Scott.
Williamson: "it is somewhat disingenuous that AHS failed to show the hardship that my client faced in this pandemic" (Scott only started to really make money once he stood up to the government. He was in BIG trouble before. Which is a lesson in there for businesses out there)
Johnston: courts must honor and cherish the public's right to free assembly and freedom of speech. These are the principles on which Mr Scott breached the order.
If they send Scott to jail for 21 days, he'll go to a facility where there are covid cases, like AHS wants to do with the Pawlowski bros. Drug dealers and wife beaters get out. Pastors and cafe owners get the slammer. To offset legal fees, donate at Fight the Fines.
AHS is seeking greater than scheduled costs, btw. They hate they had to work so hard to get Chris Scott.
Chris Scott is considering addressing the court. Adjourned for 3 mins.
Germain is asking about the "model of imprisonment" for Mr Scott should he be sent to jail. "What would community service look like? is there a seniors lodge or homeless shelter he could cook at?" These are not questions asked to the Pawlowskis lawyer.
Scott will address the court.
Scott: I do want to relay my feelings in the decision that I was forced to make regarding the order. My contempt has never been with the court but with the government and the actions of Alberta Health Services. I apologize to the court.
Scott: I still believe that these issues are more important than me or my freedom. I hope that the court will see that my apology is sincere.
Scott: in the beginning, my decision to reopen my business was about survival. But then I became a voice for people. I was barraged with stories of loss and hardship because the government's narrowminded approach to covid. The weight of that became very heavy in my shoulders.
Scott: it was demeaning and humbling to ask people to help me. I declined fundraising for several months. When it became clear that we were going to lose the business, people insisted in helping.
AHS insists I did this for commercial gain. I put all of the money into the purchase.
Scott: with the current restrictions and with what's going on, I still don't know if the business will survive. (says he is capital poor, higher payments, higher costs etc).
Scott says he was held in the drunk tank in Red Deer, not allowed to change his contacts, his clothes, etc for 3 days. His crime was protesting the government which seized his business.
Scott: we now being forced to discriminate against our customers based on their medical decisions. I won't stop fighting or bringing these things to light. But I will not disrespect the court (Scott notes after he was released from jail, he refused noncompliant speaking offers)
Scott says that given the current restrictions, the things many people like him were saying early on were true, and the government and AHS has failed Albertans. Scott then offers to be of service to Albertans as part of his sanctions should Justice Germain so decide.
Scott gets the last word and with that, court is done. Sanctions will be announced October 13 at 9 am.To support Chris Scott, the small town biz owner who spent 3 days in jail for protesting the govt covid lockdown and seizure of his cafe, donate today at FightTheFines.com
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