During a Thursday media blitz on health care, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith clarified that her office could not grant amnesty for pandemic-related offences, including in the case of Pastor Artur Pawlowski, whose fate remains in the air following his trial in Lethbridge last week.
Pawlowski faces two counts of criminal mischief and a charge under Alberta's Critical Infrastructure Defence Act related to the Coutts border blockade a year ago. His trial took place last week, and a date for the judge's decision has yet to be set.
The primary evidence that the prosecution presented to the court is a video of a speech by Pastor Pawlowski.
“It's a 19-minute video of a speech — part sermon, part political manifesto, part pep talk — that Artur gave a year ago to support the trucker convoy here in southern Alberta,” tweeted Levant.
“Artur uses dramatic language — the language of battle, of fighting. But he is crystal clear several times in this video: he means it metaphorically. He clarifies, in case anyone misunderstands [that] he means a peaceful struggle.
“Seriously. That's what Artur is being charged criminally for — giving a speech,” tweeted Levant.
The CBC previously reported on allegations that the premier's office had pressured the attorney general to intervene in COVID-related court cases, like Pawlowski's. However, an internal investigation by Alberta Justice revealed no evidence to substantiate those claims.
Smith penned a letter condemning the public broadcaster for publishing the “defamatory article” based on rumours her staff sent crown prosecutors emails about the Coutts blockade. The CBC has yet to apologize or retract their story following the letter.
On Thursday, NDP justice critic Irfan Sabir penned a letter asking Alberta's information and privacy commissioner to ensure Smith's office complies with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Sabir claimed they made “contradictory statements” on whether they interfered with Crown prosecutors and that in the days that followed the internal investigation, details on its scope raised questions about its thoroughness.
Justice spokesperson Charles Mainville didn't specify whether they reviewed emails from all of the premier's office staff and Crown prosecutors in the search. He also wouldn't give details on the exact search terms used in the probe.
Smith said the investigation encompassed emails from all Crown prosecutors and the 34 staffers in her office.
Alberta Justice did not address in its statement whether deleted emails from 900 mailboxes remain within the system for 30 or 60 days, leaving the possibility open they deleted emails before December 22, which may not have been reviewed in the search.
“This admission by the government that emails may have been deleted and contradictory statements regarding record retention raise serious questions about the records management practices of the government and the integrity of the investigation conducted by the Office of the Premier,” wrote Sabir.
On Thursday, Smith clarified that her office lacks the authority to grant amnesty.
“I've talked to everyone concerned about some enforcement orders against them,” said Smith. “I'm taking the advice of my attorney general and that we'll have to wait for the process to play out.”
Smith informed the press in mid-January that her government would not give amnesty to violators of COVID mandates. She said that Canada “works differently” than other jurisdictions.
Just before Christmas, she told Rebel News she met with Crown prosecutors to consider if these cases still served the public's best interests.
Smith later said she had used “imprecise” language and had never communicated directly with prosecutors — only Attorney General Tyler Shandro and his deputy attorney general.
On Pawlowski's trial, specifically, a reporter at the media blitz inquired about his ongoing trial.
“Did you speak to Art Pawlowski, an individual who was charged and before the court in this calendar year, and if so, what did you say to him?” asked the reporter.
“I did say yes, and I said the same thing I've always said, that I had sought the opportunity to seek amnesty,” replied Smith. “My justice minister amnesty told me is not available to a premier.”
The premier added that she patiently awaits a court decision on whether the province's pandemic lockdowns and mandates violated Albertans' constitutional rights.
A Leger poll commissioned by Rebel News uncovered 73% of United Conservative Party supporters want pandemic prosecutions against pastors, and small businesses dropped by the Alberta government.
Over one-third of Albertans supported Premier Smith's proposal to end COVID prosecutions for violating the lockdowns and mandates. She even maintained support from 32% of the general public for extending that same amnesty to everyone charged or fined during lockdowns and mandates.
Sixty-seven percent of UCP members overwhelmingly support the initiative.