Lawyer details how his group negotiated with Crown to free jailed Canadian pastor
CALGARY, Alberta, March 17, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Lawyers for Canadian Pastor James Coates said that it was through back-and-forth negotiations with the Crown prosecutor that an agreement was made to get him out of jail, without him having to promise to abide by “unscientific and unconstitutional health orders” which “violate” his freedom of conscience and religion.
Coates had been in jail for several weeks after opening his church to more worshipers than the Alberta provincial government allowed.
“Our team of lawyers was in discussions with the Crown prosecutor’s office and several of the lawyers on our team have extensive criminal law experience, which, you know, a year ago may not have been as relevant, it’s certainly extremely helpful today with the way the circumstances are turning out,” said John Carpay, President of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.
“We’ve got very strong criminal law expertise on the legal team,” Carpay told LifeSiteNews. “So, these were negotiations with the Crown prosecutor’s office, and the agreement was negotiated to get Pastor Coates out of jail without having to make a promise for him to abide by unscientific and unconstitutional health orders that violate his freedom of conscience, religion, association, and peaceful assembly.”
On Wednesday, the JCCF had announced that Coates will soon be released from prison. His legal team also announced that Crown prosecutors agreed to drop most of the charges.
Carpay said Coates is expected to appear before a judge this Monday, March 22, with his release to follow thereafter.
Coates, the pastor of Grace Life Church in Spruce Grove, Alberta, has been in jail since February 16 for defying local COVID health orders in Alberta, after refusing to agree to bail conditions which block his release unless he agrees to not hold church services amid severe coronavirus lockdowns.
According to the JCCF, crown prosecutors agreed that Coates can be “released without conditions,” and have withdrawn all but one of his Public Health Act charges.
“Prosecutors have also agreed to withdraw the criminal charge in connection with the condition imposed by RCMP on February 7, and instead have charged Pastor Coates $100 for breaching the condition, which Pastor Coates has agreed to pay,” said the JCCF.
Carpay told LifeSiteNews that the deal to get him out of jail took some time, but was finalized on Tuesday.
Regarding the $100 fine, Carpay said “there’s going to be a guilty plea with a joint crown defense submission,” and it will go before a judge. “Judges usually accept joint crown and defense submissions, but the judge is not obligated to accept that, the judge can say, no, we’re not doing that, he or she can do something else.” However, it is “highly likely” that the judge will accept the joint submission.
Carpay said that Coates’ second charge of violating a public health order will go to trial as planned. This trial is scheduled for May 3 to 5. “Pastor Coates and Grace Life Church are both on trial, but the bigger phenomenon is that the government’s health orders will be on trial,” he explained..
Reasons for crown dropping charges not clear
News of Coates’ release came only a few weeks after an Alberta court judge on March 5 dismissed an appeal to his bail conditions, which would have kept him behind bars until his trial date.
LifeSiteNews asked Carpay if he believes there was any political pressure that possibly nudged the Crown prosecutors to work with them to get Coates out of jail. “We cannot peer into the hearts and minds of the crown prosecutors and, you know, if there was any direct or indirect pressure of even guidance from the Alberta government, we don’t know that one way or the other,” he responded.
“But the way things are supposed to run in a democracy is that elected politicians are not involved in choices of prosecuting or not [prosecuting]. But it would be a safe bet to say that they had ... some interest in or some sympathy in getting Pastor Coates out of jail. Obviously, if they had had no interest in that, they wouldn’t have negotiated anything.”
Since the jailing of Coates, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and his United Conservative Party (UCP) government have come under increased fire from many who oppose lockdowns, including some MLAs within his party base, such as MLA Drew Barnes of Medicine Hat.
Indeed, recently, Kenney’s provincial government allowed retail businesses an increase in occupancy limits, but offered no such increase to churches, which remain capped at 15 percent.
A just-published LifeSite report details how according to a source with inside knowledge of Kenney’s ruling UCP, the provincial leader has placed a gag order on his caucus members, preventing them from voicing their opposition to COVID lockdowns.
“I know 100 percent as fact that Kenney gagged pretty much everyone,” a UCP insider who works as a high-ranking director in a large UCP Constituency Association (CA) told LifeSiteNews.
Just last week, news broke that according to an internal email from the UCP, there will be a leadership review for Kenney, however, it will not take place until 2022.
Carpay mentioned to LifeSiteNews that in the end, the only way lockdowns will end is when public opinion shifts.
“Court actions always take years and we cannot afford to have lockdowns stay with us for years,” said Carpay. “And the only way lockdowns are going away is when public opinion changes.”
Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney
Office of the Premier
307 Legislature Building
10800 - 97 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2B6
Email: [email protected]
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