Charges withdrawn against Fairview Baptist Church

CALGARY, AB: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is pleased to announce that all charges for violating Public Health Orders against Fairview Baptist Church have been withdrawn by Crown prosecutors.  In early 2021, charges were laid against Pastor Timothy Stephens and Fairview Baptist Church for violating Public Health Orders, which included mandates regarding gathering limitations, masking, and social distancing. On May 6, 2021, Associate Chief Justice John Rooke of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench issued a restraining order that applied not only to the Whistle Stop Café but also to anyone acting independently of the Café anywhere in Alberta.This Order was amended by Associate Chief Justice Rooke on May 13, 2021. Its scope was restricted to the Café only and to those acting in concert with the Café. As a result of the amendment, the restraining order could no longer apply to Pastor Stephens or Fairview Baptist Church.Nevertheless, on May 16, 2021, the Calgary Police arrested Pastor Stephens at Fairview Baptist Church on the pretext of an irrelevant and over-broad restraining order. Pastor Stephens spent 18 days in jail but was released when provincial gathering restrictions were removed on July 1, 2021. Soon thereafter, four of the six charges laid against him were dropped by the Crown. On September 15, 2022, Pastor Stephens went to trial on two remaining charges of violating public health orders. On November 1, 2022, Judge Allan Fradsham determined that Pastor Stephens had not been guilty of the two remaining charges. On August 29, 2023, the Crown withdrew all charges against Fairview Baptist Church. This follows the consequential Ingram v. Alberta decision. The Public Health Orders that Fairview Baptist Church had violated were found to be ultra vires the Public Health Act and were, therefore, invalid. The Act requires that all decisions with respect to public health orders must be made by the Chief Medical Officer of Health and not by the Alberta Cabinet. In her concluding remarks, Justice Barbara Romaine stated, “While involvement of elected officials in these important decisions may be desirable and even necessary, this involvement should have been structured in such a way as to mitigate the risk of political priorities interfering with the informed and well-qualified judgment of the [Chief Medical Officer of Health], as provided in the Public Health Act, without ignoring the underlying public interest.” (emphasis added)“The Justice Centre is pleased to have been able to ensure that legal representation was provided to Pastor Tim Stephens, Pastor James Coates, Ty Northcott, and so many other courageous citizens who appropriately exercised their Charter rights and freedoms even when these were being unjustifiably violated by governments, from March of 2020 onwards,” stated John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre.

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