As part of a series, Frontline News is featuring activists who were unjustly imprisoned for their fight against government extremism in the name of COVID. Many activists, scientists, and other professionals lost their friends, careers, or were censored for standing up, but a small few fought for freedom by sacrificing their own. These are their stories.
Pastor Artur Pawlowski, 49, immigrated from Poland to Canada and became the founder and pastor of Street Church Ministries in Calgary, Alberta. When lockdowns were being imposed, Pawlowski's church was ordered to stop feeding the homeless, and to close his church.
Pawlowski asked for an exemption, but it was denied. He continued to feed the homeless believing that the “orders to stop feeding them [and] giving them necessities of life, they were sentencing them to death, [and] some of them did die.”
His church service and homeless program continued during the first few months of the COVID lockdowns, including Christmas of 2020. By Easter, the government began targeting Pawlowski and his church for refusing to bow to the COVID regulations.
In an incident that later went viral, Pastor Pawlowski yelled at police who were escorting health inspectors into his church during Easter services calling them Nazis and accusing them of Gestapo tactics for trying to stop church services. The police backed down, and the pastor was seen as a hero for standing up for religious freedoms at a time when most were keeping quiet and staying home.
Government gets aggressive
The police stepped up their enforcement and in May 2021 they arrested and charged the pastor for holding church services which were considered an "illegal in-person gathering" at the time.
At sentencing, the Alberta Health Services asked the judge to impose a sentence of 21 days in jail, a $2,000 fine and $15,000 in court costs for the religious leader who flouted their public health restriction.
After his hearing, Pawlowski defiantly said, "For me, 21 days prison, and for Dawid [his brother], 10 days prison unless I ask for forgiveness ... and to say I'm sorry. My message to those devils is simple. Lock me in prison, take the key and throw it away. You will never hear sorry from me."
In his defense, Pawlowski referenced the double standard and selective prosecution especially when politicians were found to be violating their own COVID restrictions but were not being prosecuted.
Pawlowski said, "People need more Church not less! More prayers, not less! We, the clergy are essential! Now, the Church is more essential than the corrupted politicians are!"
Citing the words of Abraham Lincoln, he said, "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves."
In an eerie foreshadowing of what was to come Pawlowski continued, saying, "Sure, you can lock us up and throw the key away, but our political imprisonment will shout even louder from prison about this hypocrisy and the mockery of justice!"
The court in October eventually sentenced the pastor to 18 months probation, a $23,000 fine, and required him to say that the majority of experts disagree with his opinion when he speaks about his objections to COVID policies.
Regarding the last part of his sentence, Pawlowski said after his hearing, “every time I open my mouth to the public, I have to lie to the public,” noting that he'll be required to assert that “vaccinations are saving lives, that masks work, that doctors and scientists are all for the restrictions.” He characterized the latter statement as a “lie,” lamenting that now “I have to lie.”
Pawlowski's lawyer, Sarah Miller, described the judicial sanction as "bizarre" and "likely unconstitutional" under Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees freedom of expression.
Preaching to the truckers
In early 2022 more Canadians started seeing the injustice of the COVID restrictions in general and the vaccine mandates in particular. By February truckers and others, organized convoys to protest the vaccine mandate for crossing the border. Protests were held in Ottawa and at some border crossings including Coutts, Alberta, not far from Pawlowski's Calgary.
On February 3rd Pawlowski visited the border and gave a rousing speech to the truckers who were debating the future of the blockade, Pawlowski spoke passionately, saying,
"God has given us this moment in history.
"You want to arrest me! I'm not hiding! Arrest me and from jail I will be yelling and screaming the same message - Canadians rise up!"
Speaking about the difficulties his family endured while supporting the Polish uprising against communism in the nineteen eighties he said, "I know what I'm talking about because I lived through it, and I'm telling you for the sake of your children, here is your opportunity. Hold the fort. Do not break the line, don't do it! And may God help us all because we don't fight with guns and swords."
Days later, Pawlowski was forcibly carried out of his home and became the first to be charged under Alberta’s Critical Infrastructure Defense Act for "abetting the offence of mischief by preventing the free-flow of goods and people across Canada’s international border."
At his bail hearing provincial court Judge Erin Olsen, said "there is a substantial likelihood that the accused will if released from custody, continue on offending, or interfering with the administration of justice," and ordered the pastor locked up.
After 51 days in jail, Justice Gaylene Kendall overturned the imprisonment and released Pawlowski under limited terms including a nightly curfew.
A somber and emotional Pawlowski sat down for an interview with Rebel News where he describes his imprisonment.
For the first 20 days he was kept in solitary with only being allowed out for one or two hours. "I was treated worse than a dog." Eventually, they let him have a bible but didn't allow him his eyeglasses.
Last week, in a dramatic ruling vindicating Pawlowski, the Alberta appeals court ruled in favor of Pawlowski. The original injunction banning protests in the name of public health “was not sufficiently clear and unambiguous.”
"The finding of contempt and the sanction order are set aside. The fines that have been paid by them [including his brother] are to be reimbursed."
The court also ruled that the lower court was not allowed to restrict Pawlowski's freedom of speech by mandating that he add that 'most experts disagree' when speaking about COVID polices.
His lawyer, Sarah Miller called the ruling a "slam dunk win".
“Alberta Health Services has pursued this matter against the Pawlowskis vigorously, and it is rewarding to have the Court of Appeal unanimously and soundly agree that injunctions and contempt proceedings must follow the rule of law and cannot be applied and sought so indiscriminately,” she said in a statement to True North.
Rebel News which assisted Pawlowski's legal defense by raising awareness and fundraising though SaveArtur.com, said in a tweet, "This is a victory for free speech, freedom of religion, and civil liberties in Canada."