A preacher and his brother have successfully appealed their convictions for hosting public gatherings during the pandemic and are to have their fines reimbursed.
Twice in 2021, Artur and Dawid Pawlowski of Calgary were ruled to be in contempt of a COVID-19-related Alberta Health Services injunction that limited the number of people permitted to congregate and required physical distancing and face masks.
Artur Pawlowski, a Street Church preacher, was sentenced to three days in jail and fined $20,000, while his brother's sentence was three days in jail and a $10,000 fine.
During sentencing, the brothers were also ordered to pay more than $15,700 to Alberta Health Services for costs incurred.
The injunction named the church the brothers operate, not the Pawlowskis themselves.
In their appeal, they argued that they could not be found in contempt of an injunction that was not made against them specifically.
The Alberta Court of Appeal determined that the language used in the injunction was open to interpretation and created "ambiguity and potential confusion."
The Pawlowskis' conviction on the contempt charge was set aside as well as their probation.
Their fines are to be reimbursed and Alberta Health Services has been ordered to return the $15,733.50 it was awarded.
The Appeal Court also ruled on a related case involving a central Alberta restaurant.
Christopher Scott, the owner of the Whistle Stop Café in Mirror, Alta., was found to have been in contempt of an AHS injunction against him regarding illegal public gatherings in June 2021. The conviction was related to an event he hosted outside his restaurant in May 2021, days after the injunction was granted.
Scott was sentenced to three days in jail, fined $20,000, ordered to complete 120 hours of community service and placed on 18 months' probation. He was also ordered to pay AHS $10,922.25 to cover costs.
The restaurant owner appealed the sanctions against him, not the contempt finding, arguing they were "excessive and disproportionate."
The court partially granted the appeal, reducing Scott's fine to $10,000, half of the original penalty. The court also allowed him to make monthly $500 payments toward it.
His probation was also reduced to eight months, a duration that is now complete. (CTV Calgary)
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2022.