Alberta’s Top Court Revokes Contempt of Court Findings Against Pawlowski Brothers

The court said the lower justice’s actions were in error.

QUICK FACTS:
  • Alberta, Canada’s court of highest authority has overturned contempt of court judgments against Calgary Street Church minister Artur Pawlowski and his brother Dawid.
  • The brothers were held in contempt of court for violating an order forbidding public meetings during COVID-19 restrictions.
  • All three members of the Alberta Court of Appeal panel unanimously decided on Friday that the brothers were not subject to the judicial order that was initially said to have been broken on May 6, 2021.
  • The higher court’s judges ruled that the lower court justice was incorrect in finding that there was not an injunction applied to the Pawlowski’s when they held a church service on May 8, 2021.
PORTIONS OF THE JUDGE’S DECISION:
  • “The legal issue before us … is whether the injunction applied to the Pawlowski’s such that they could be found in contempt of it,” the appeal judges noted in their written decision. “Without condoning the actions of the Pawlowski’s, we turn to that question.”
  • When addressing the lower court’s decision, the judges said that their “interpretation contains an inherent circularity, capturing individuals who are acting independently from the named respondents and prohibiting them from engaging in the prohibited conduct because they are engaged in the prohibited conduct.”
  • “While this might be viewed as merely awkward drafting, it creates an ambiguity and potential confusion when the language identifying who is subject to the order refers to the prohibited conduct without clearly stating that all persons are subject to the injunction.”
BACKGROUND:
  • The brothers found themselves in legal trouble after Justice Adam Germain found that an injunction order against Whistle Stop Cafe and owner Christopher Scott applied “to all individuals willing to breach the operative terms of the order after having received notice of it.”
  • The court also rolled back fines levied against the Pawlowskis, including $23,000 against Artur and $10,000 against Dawid. The brothers’ funds will be returned to them and the court costs of $15,733.50 are also said to have been overturned.