Another pastor in Alberta has been arrested for allegedly defying the province’s COVID-19 gathering restrictions, but lawyers said the health enforcement order on which the arrest was based is no longer valid.
Pastor Tim Stephens of the Fairview Baptist Church was detained by Calgary police on Sunday for allegedly refusing to limit his congregation and have them wear masks as stipulated by the Alberta Health Services (AHS).
On May 6, the AHS obtained an order from the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta that allows the arrest of Whistle Stop Café owner Christopher Scott, former councillor and mayoral candidate for Innisfail town Glen Carritt, and John and Jane Does—meaning “any other person acting … independently to like effect and with Notice of this Order”— for organizing, attending, and promoting “illegal public gatherings” that violate orders issued by the Alberta Chief Medical Officer.
However, the order was amended to remove the words “or independently to like effect,” meaning only the individuals named in the order, Scott and Carritt, can be arrested for violating the public health orders. The amendment came after the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a non-partisan legal firm, successfully applied for the Court to amend the May 6 Order.
This means the Calgary police’s arrest of Stephens on May 13 was unlawful, according to James Kitchen, a Justice Centre lawyer.
Edmonton Justice Ada Germain offered Stephens bail on Monday, under the condition he limit his congregation. Stephens refused those bail conditions, reported Rebel News.
Stephens was back in court on Tuesday. He is also set to appear for a civil contempt hearing on June 16.
Stephens is the third pastor in Alberta to be arrested for holding religious services in violation of public health restrictions. Artur Pawlowski was arrested last week along with his brother, Dawid Pawlowski; and James Coates of Edmonton’s GraceLife Church was arrested in February.
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