Third jailed Canadian pastor to walk free after spending three days in prison
CALGARY, Alberta, May 19, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — The third Canadian Christian pastor to be jailed for defying COVID-19 health rules will be released after a judge yesterday agreed to let him out so long as he abides by a now-amended May 6 injunction order issued by the Alberta Health Services (AHS).
Pastor Tim Stephens of Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary, Alberta, was arrested in front of his family and then jailed on Sunday, May 16, after holding an indoor church service which went against the provincial government’s rules.
Stephens and his church have for months been under surveillance by AHS, the Calgary Police Service, and city bylaw officers because they have not bowed to government rules which limit worship congregation size and mandate masks. Additionally, Fairview Baptist was visited on multiple occasions by AHS and police.
According to the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), the legal group representing Stephens, AHS had wanted to keep him in jail until he agreed to “consent to the violation of his Charter rights and freedoms by Alberta’s public health orders.”
The JCCF noted that Stephens was arrested based on a May 6 court injunction issued by Associate Chief Justice Rooke, which was directed at the owner of Whistle Stop Café in Mirror, Alberta, who had defied government health orders and opened for dine-in service.
“The May 6 injunction does not apply to Pastor Stephens, nor did it apply to him at the time of his arrest. His arrest and current detention are illegal,” said lawyer and JCCF President John Carpay. “Alberta Health Services knows that the May 6 injunction, which originally applied to all Albertans having notice of this injunction, was amended by Associate Chief Justice Rooke on May 13. Since then, this injunction has applied only to Whistle Stop Café and certain named or affiliated individuals.”
In a court hearing today, Justice Germain of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench said Stephens could be freed. At the same time, he noted that the terms of his release could be “varied on one day’s notice,” according to the JCCF.
The JCCF said that AHS has obtained their May 6 injunction against the Whistle Stop Café and other individuals in a “secret court proceeding” which gave police “special powers to arrest its owners and other citizens immediately if they dared to continue exercising their Charter rights and freedoms in the face of public health orders.”
On May 13, the JCCF announced it successfully had the court amend the May 6 injunction so that it would not apply to all Albertans but only to those listed in court orders.
Before the May 6 injunction, police in Alberta could issue fines of up to $2,000 to those who attend peaceful and constitutionally legal protests.
According to the JCCF, court applications made without notice to the “other side” are normally retained for actual emergencies and “extreme situations, like seeking a restraining order against a violent domestic partner.”
“If providing proper notice of a court application might trigger a violent assault, the victim can obtain an injunction against the abuser without providing prior notice,” noted the JCCF.
“There was no emergency taking place in Mirror, Alberta, that warrants a court application without notice to Whistle Stop Café and its owners. The Alberta Government had already been issuing massive fines against individuals, while at the same time refusing to produce medical and scientific evidence in court actions in which Albertans have challenged the validity of public health orders for violating their Charter rights and freedoms,” said Carpay.
Carpay and the JCCF have been active in many legal cases, both in Alberta and Canada-wide, notably serving as legal counsel for Alberta Pastor James Coates of Grace Life Church, who was jailed for 35 days for defying COVID health rules. Coates’ trial will resume on June 7.
In addition to Coates and Stephens, Pastor Artur Pawlowski of the Cave of Adullam church, also located in Calgary, was arrested on a highway and jailed for defying COVID-19 health rules. He was released from jail after a three-day stay.
Premier of Alberta Jason Kenney
Office of the Premier
307 Legislature Building
10800 - 97 Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2B6
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