Alberta gov’t. attempts to delay trial of pastor jailed for defying COVID rules
April 12, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — The legal team representing a Canadian pastor who was jailed for over a month for defying COVID-related orders says it is “outrageous” that the provincial government of Alberta is looking at delaying the pastor's May 3 trial date. Government officials argued they need more time to gather evidence.
“We call into question the timing of the Crown to request an adjournment of the May 3 trial,” said lawyer John Carpay, who serves as the President of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) in a statement last week.
“We are now in our thirteenth month of Charter-violating lockdowns, in what was supposed to be a temporary two-week measure to flatten the curve. The government has had thirteen months to put together a scientific and medical basis to justify its violations of our fundamental Charter freedoms. By May 3, the government will have had fourteen months to assemble proper medical and scientific evidence to justify lockdowns. For the Alberta Government to request an adjournment of the May 3 trial of Pastor Coates is outrageous, while at the same time entering onto the church’s private property and putting up fencing with hired security.”
The JCCF has been representing Grace Life Church, located near Edmonton, Alberta, in the ongoing fight against Alberta’s COVID health rules, which limit church size to 15 percent capacity and mandate the wearing of masks.
In an early morning raid on Wednesday, April 7, Canadian police constructed a barricade around Grace Life, which has stayed open despite a local health order mandating its closure. The church subsequently met in a private undisclosed location, while protestors gathered at the church building.
Pastor James Coates of Grace Life refused to comply with COVID regulations and was jailed from February 16 until March 22 after refusing to agree to bail conditions which blocked his release unless he guaranteed not to hold church services amid severe lockdowns.
One public health charge is still before the courts for Coates, who is to appear at a trial on May 3.
According to the JCCF, the group is in the process of filing a subpoena “to require Alberta Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw to testify at the trial of Pastor Coates on May 3, 2021.”
“For the government to shut down Grace Life church as part of enforcing health orders, while also seeking to delay the Charter challenge to the validity of those very same orders, is unconscionable and completely undemocratic … Why is the government afraid of tough questions? And why, in our thirteenth month of lockdowns, with three months’ notice of the trial set for May 3, does the government require until July 2021 to assemble medical and scientific evidence?”
The JCCF “expressed outrage” at the local government’s decision “to enter private church property” and erect barricades around it to prevent worshippers from gathering.
Independent MP Derek Sloan announced a petition calling for the immediate opening of Grace Life, which as of today has over 8,000 signatures.
Not all Alberta politicians are fully going along with COVID lockdowns imposed by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw.
Just last week in an unprecedented political move, a total of now 17 UCP MLAs blasted Kenney for taking the province back into a severe COVID-19 lockdown.
One of those who signed the letter is UCP MLA for Medicine Hat Drew Barnes. He recently spoke with LifeSiteNews, saying it was a “mistake” for governments to not list religious practice as “essential” when locking the population down with COVID health orders.
Since the jailing and subsequent release of Coates, Kenney and his UCP government have come under increased fire from many who oppose lockdowns, including Barnes.
With a population of more than 4.3 million, Alberta has recorded roughly 160,000 positive tests for COVID-19. However, only about 2,000 cases resulted in death.