Sentencing delay for men found guilty of flouting Alberta COVID-19 rules

·2 min read

CALGARY — Sentencing arguments for an Alberta pastor and his brother found guilty of contempt after deliberately violating COVID-19 health orders have been put over until September.

Artur Pawlowski and his brother Dawid Pawlowski were arrested in May and accused of organizing an illegal gathering as well as promoting and attending an illegal gathering.

The arrests came after court orders were granted allowing Alberta Health Services and police to arrest and charge anyone who advertised gatherings that would breach health restrictions.

Last month, Justice Adam Germain ruled that Alberta Health Services had proven "nearly to absolute certainty" that the two Calgary men were "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of contempt."

Discussions on possible sanctions were set for Tuesday, but the lawyer for the Pawlowskis asked for a delay since Alberta Health Services was preparing further affidavits against her clients.

The health provider has indicated it will be seeking 21 days of jail time for the two men.

Germain granted the delay to make sure that defence lawyer Sarah Miller had time to prepare her arguments.

"Frankly, on a matter of this nature, where you have what some legal authorities might describe as an almost public contempt, bordering on criminal contempt ... I'm going to give her every opportunity to vigorously defend her clients," said Germain.

Alberta Health Services has indicated it is seeking 21 days of jail time for the two men.

The judge said the delay might give the court a better understanding of COVID-19 in remand centres and provincial correction institutions.

"There are people who doubt the COVID-19. I can look at the death or morbidity statistics as much as any other judge and it's a real issue," Germain said.

"If COVID is running wild in the institutions, we don't want the 21-day jail sentences that you've asked for."

Germain said he might consider the "unique risks" of someone going to jail. He said the Pawlowskis' lawyer could have a number of arguments for why they're not vaccinated, including illnesses that prevent vaccinations.

"Maybe there's an outbreak in the prison system. All of those things may influence the decision."

The case is to return to court Sept. 13.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2021.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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