GUNTER: A court sentence that is a direct assault on free expression
This week in a federal courtroom in Calgary, Justice Adam Germain handed down one of the most potentially dangerous sentences I can recall.
I would be surprised if one particular portion of Germain’s sentence survives an appeal. That portion is a direct assault on Canadians’ right to free expression.
Germain told a duo of anti-vax, anti-mask Calgary street preachers that if they continue to promote their COVID-19 message at mass rallies, in churches and on street corners, they must also preach the scientific views of government-approved experts.
Judge Germain is not wrong to convict Artur and Dawid Pawlowski of Street Church Ministries for being in contempt of court. Despite repeated court orders that they stop holding unmasked, indoor church services and stop inciting others to break public health restrictions, the pair persisted.
“It is not an unreasonable observation,” Germain ruled, “that the Pawlowskis revelled in their arrests and went out of their way to make their arrests the Saturday night news spectacle that it became.”
During Artur’s sentencing hearing this past summer, Judge Germain felt the pastor was “taunting” the court to throw him in jail. “He has a fervent desire that I martyr him,” Germain said Wednesday.
Artur, instead, must pay a $23,000 fine and serve 18 months probation, while Dawid must pay $10,000 and be 12 months on probation.
During their probations, the men must give 120 hours of community service. The judge added their own street ministry would not be an acceptable charity.
To give you an added sense of just how contemptuous the Pawlowskis are of government pandemic efforts, and even of the fact that COVID is a real public health threat, between his sentencing hearing in the summer and Wednesday’s court date, Artur spent a month in the States speaking to anti-vaccine rallies, meeting with a member of the Trump family and raising money.