ALBERTA, Canada, February 23, 2022 – Calgary pastor, Artur Pawlowski, 48, is currently awaiting trial after being charged with mischief and interrupting the operation of essential infrastructure, both charges related to the trucker convoy protests. According to his lawyer, the pastor remains in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, Fox News reported.
Last week, Alberta’s Provincial Court Judge Erin Olsen denied the pastor bail, claiming he cannot be released in part because he “will not follow court orders,” according to the CBC.
Pawlowski was arrested outside his home on February 7, just days after he spoke to the trucker convoy protestors at the U.S.-Canada border in Coutts, Alberta. In his speech, the pastor urged protestors to “hold the line,” a phrase that became popular amongst truckers partaking in the blockades.
The pastor’s speech came after the truckers had reportedly made a deal with RCMP to move the blockade from the border to Edmonton, Alberta. But Pawlowski’s “impassioned” speech, according to prosecutor Steven Johnston, seemed to change their minds. The truckers remained at the Coutts border crossing until February 14, nearly two weeks after the on-and-off blockade began.
This is the pastor’s fifth arrest over the last couple of years, all of which surround his protests against mandates in the country. Pawlowski’s arrest is also historic—he is the first to be arrested under Alberta’s Critical Infrastructure Defense Act, which allows law enforcement to arrest a perceived offender without a warrant.
“For him to be incarcerated, for him to be put in jail, because he has expressed and acted contrary to the public health message that’s out there is really concerning from the administration of justice perspective,” Pawlowski’s lawyer Sarah Miller said in an interview after his bail was denied.
“It’s extremely frustrating because the charges all stem from public health measures that are all being incrementally withdrawn over the next few weeks,” she added. According to Miller, Pawlowski will remain in custody until at least March 11. In the meantime, Pawlowski remains in solitary confinement for 23 hours each day.
Even before the trucker convoy protest began, Pawlowski has been a figurehead of the anti-mandate movement in Canada, stemming back to his April 2021 viral video, in which the pastor stopped police from disrupting his church’s Passion celebration.
“Get out of this property immediately!” the pastor shouted at RCMP officers. “I don’t want to hear a word . . . until you come back with a warrant!” The pastor can then be heard calling the intruding officers “Nazis” and “Gestapo.”
Pawloski, a Polish immigrant, has critisized the Canadian government’s handling of COVID measures as oppressive, comparing Trudeau’s Liberal party to communists and the freedom convoy to Poland’s 1980s solidarity movement.
“I really believe that we are living behind the Iron Curtain in Canada right now. It’s a repetition of history,” Pawlowski said.
He has been outspoken in his support of the convoy, as well as his beliefs in Canadian rights to mobility and free speech under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, both of which he has been denied in the past, even since gaining Canadian citizenship.
Last year, Pawlowski faced a civil contempt charge for continuing to hold church services in violation of a provincial court order that forbade “organizing an in-person gathering, including requesting, inciting or inviting others to attend an ‘Illegal Public Gathering.’” As a result, the pastor faced three days in prison, a fine of $23,000 (CAD), 18 months probation, and was forbidden from traveling outside of Alberta.
For supporting the trucker convoy and standing against medical segregation pastor Artur Pawlowski is still in prison! pic.twitter.com/a1r2mxUWBL
— Artur Pawlowski (@ArturPawlowski1) February 13, 2022
The court order also required the pastor echo “qualified speech provisions,” when speaking out against the Alberta health orders. The “provisions” read as follows:
I am also aware that the views I am expressing to you on this occasion may not be views held by the majority of medical experts in Alberta. While I may disagree with them, I am obliged to inform you that the majority of medical experts favour social distancing, mask wearing, and avoiding large crowds to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Most medical experts also support participation in a vaccination program unless for a valid religious or medical reason you cannot be vaccinated. Vaccinations have been shown statistically to save lives and to reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.
Many have critizised this order as an attack on freedom of expression, which is protected under Canada’s Charter.
“This compelled speech—straight from Soviet Russia or North Korea—was un-Canadian, illegal and undemocratic,” said Pawlowski.
Pawlowski is not the first pastor in Canada to be arrested during the pandemic for protesting mandates. In fact, dozens of pastors have been arrested for continuing to hold church services, including outdoor services.
One such pastor, Tobias Tissen of Steinbach, Manitoba, was arrested and spent the night in jail after holding a church service that violated the province’s health order against outdoor gatherings of more than 5 people.
Pastor Tim Stevens, another Calgary-based preacher, was arrested on two occassions for holding church services above the province’s 15-person capacity limit after the Alberta Health Services surveilled the church for months.
Hundreds of Canadian churches have permanently shut their doors as a result of public health orders. And while many nations have begun to lax COVID restrictions, Canadian provinces continue to prevent various forms of in-person worship. To this day, many churches meet in secret – congregating in the homes, garages, or barns of their members.
For people like Artur Pawlowski, neither the federal government nor the RCMP will deter them from expressing their right to worship and assembly. Yet the Canadian government and its law enforcement continue to enforce incredibly stringent measures in a nation that has some of the highest vaccination rates in the world.
“When you know history a little bit, when you’ve lived through history . . . you know this is a mistake,” Pawlowski’s wife, Marzena Pawlowski said.
The Democracy Fund, a registered Canadian charity, is raising funds in partnership with Rebel News to help “Pastor Art” with his legal fees. To date, 27,583 donors across the world have made a contribution to his fund.