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Calgary judge hands out fines, not jail to prevent notoriety for COVID-19 violators

Judge says Pawlowskis would like nothing better than to become martyrs in jail.

A Calgary judge says he is sparing a pastor, his brother and a café owner jail time for violating COVID-19 rules because he doesn’t want the men to cash in on notoriety with more time behind bars.

Justice Adam Germain ruled Wednesday that Pastor Artur Pawlowski and his brother Dawid Pawlowski must pay stiff fines and Alberta Health Services costs because they would like nothing better than to become martyrs in jail.

AHS had recommended 21 days’ jail for the pastor and 10 days for his brother. But Germain opted for a $23,000 fine for Artur Pawlowski and $10,000 for Dawid Pawlowski. The brothers will also have to pay $15,733 in costs, and the pastor an additional $4,758.

Artur Pawlowski must also serve 18 months’ probation and Dawid Pawlowski 10 months’ probation, which prevents them from leaving Alberta.

Christopher Scott, owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe in the hamlet of Mirror, northeast of Red Deer, was alsolooking at a recommended 21 days in jail. He must instead pay $20,000 in fines and costs of nearly $11,000 and serve 18 months’ probation.

The three were convicted in June of contempt.

The Pawlowski brothers had been holding church services that flouted rules on masking and physical distancing. Scott was arrested at the end of an anti-lockdown rally at his café, which had earlier been closed by health officials.

Court orders allowed AHS and police to arrest and charge those who advertised gatherings that would breach health restrictions.

While Germain delivered his sentencing decision, a loud demonstration from supporters could be heard outside.

The judge said the three men “contributed to this ominous health situation by their defiance of health rules and their public posturing, which has encouraged others to doubt the legitimacy of the pandemic and disobey the health orders assigned to protect them.”

“(They) are on the wrong side of science. They’re also on the wrong side of common sense.”

Artur Pawlowski spent three days in custody after his arrest. He would have loved more time in jail, said Germain.

“The 21 days in jail would be a slap on the wrist that will make him a martyr,” said the judge.

“After Pastor Artur Pawlowski was found guilty of contempt, he went on a speaking tour of the United States, where he parlayed his title as a pastor and the fact he had been arrested for holding a church service into a rally cry that attracted like-minded individuals,” Germain said.

Last month, the pastor told court they had done nothing wrong and described himself a “political prisoner of conscience.”

Germain ordered the men to begin making payments Nov. 1.

—Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

RELATED: ‘Canada has fallen’: Calgary pastor unrepentant at his sentencing for COVID-19 breach