Alberta Pastor Tim Stephens was acquitted on Tuesday on alleged charges of violating the province’s public health orders which required physical distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic. Stephens spent a total of 21 days in jail in regards to the charges.
In a statement, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said Stephens was illegally arrested and imprisoned for having allegedly violated the public health orders, “which have since been shown to be ineffective and harmful.”
“This decision sets the record straight about the justifiability of his actions and about the importance of respecting Charter rights and freedoms,” the Justice Centre said.
“We are pleased that the Court has acquitted Pastor Stephens on the charges of not complying with a public health order.”
On May 6, 2021, Associate Chief Justice John Rooke of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench issued an injunction allowing police to arrest, immediately detain and take before the court any Albertan who exercised her or his Charter freedoms in the face of former Alberta premier Jason Kenney’s pandemic mandates.
At the request of the Justice Centre, the injunction was amended by the Court of Queen’s Bench on May 13, 2021 to apply only to persons associated with the Whistle Stop Café, which flouted pandemic restrictions for months.
But just three days later, Stephens of Fairview Baptist Church was arrested for allegedly violating the terms of the injunction. He had no association with the Café and had not been served notice of the injunction. Stephens was released after spending three days in the Calgary Remand Centre.
He was again arrested on June 14, 2021, this time for allegedly conducting an outdoor church service in violation of a court order. He spent an additional 18 days in jail before being released on July 1, 2021.
At the time of his release, the public health orders in question had been revoked.
Stephens spent a total of 21 days in jail. He was served with six provincial tickets for his alleged breach of Alberta public health orders. Four of those tickets were already dropped, and Tuesday’s decision is in relation to the two remaining tickets.