By Delon Shurtz
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Calgary pastor Artur Pawlowski has been found guilty of mischief and breaching a release order stemming from his involvement in the protest at the Coutts border last year.
“I am satisfied Mr. Pawlowski intended to incite the audience to continue the blockade, intended to incite protesters to commit mischief,” Justice Gordon Krinke ruled earlier this month in Lethbridge court of justice.
Pawlowski also faces a third charge under Alberta’s Critical Infrastructure Defence Act (CIDA) of willfully damaging or destroying essential infrastructure.
Although Krinke found that Pawlowski “counselled other persons to interfere with the use of Highway 4 in a manner which rendered it useless,” Krinke reserved ruling on the charge until a defence constitutional challenge of CIDA has been heard.
Krinke, whose rulings were heard by a courtroom packed with Pawlowski supporters, said he largely relied on a video of the pastor’s speech on Feb. 3, 2022 in which he encourages protesters to hold their ground. As protesters prepared to leave the Coutts border crossing and take their protest to Edmonton, Pawlowski told them to stay and not give up their fight.
“Don’t you dare break the line,” Krinke quoted the pastor.
Pawlowski’s comments were made during a speech at the Smugglers Saloon in Coutts, where, Krinke ruled, the pastor also breached a previous release order that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour. Krinke said Pawlowski failed to do that when he counselled others to commit criminal offences.
The trucker blockade and protest of COVID-19 health restrictions began in late January 2022 and spilled over into February, effectively shutting down the province’s main U.S. border crossing for more than two weeks.
More than a dozen other people were charged, as well, including four men accused of conspiracy to commit murder.
The guilty rulings were overshadowed by a protest outside the courthouse, where dozens of Pawlowski’s supporters argued with, and held placards in front of, reporters covering the case. Although supporters were eager to have the media cover the rally before the judge’s rulings, they tried to block reporters from taking pictures of Pawlowski as he walked out of the courthouse after he was found guilty.
Pawlowski spoke to reporters and supporters, however, and said after the court hearing that he was proud to fight for the rights and freedoms of Canadians.
“I’m not ashamed of what I did,” he said. “If I had a chance to do it again, I’ll do it again gladly.”
Although found guilty of two criminal charges, Pawlowski said that during his speech in Coutts he specifically said “no guns, no swords, I am not advocating violence, I am against violence.”
Pawlowski said he’s confident justice will, sooner or later, prevail and he will keep fighting what he calls a corrupt government that intends to keep stealing, robbing and pillaging.
The case is scheduled to return to court on May 24 to set a date to hear the defence’s constitutional challenge of CIDA.