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Canadian Pastor Convicted Of Inciting Mischief In Trucker Protests Facing Up To 10 Years Prison

Published: August 1, 2023 | Print Friendly and PDF
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Pastor Artur Pawlowski's troubles with the Canadian authorities began long before his sermon to commercial truckers encouraging their peaceful defiance against what he thought were "oppressive" public health mandates for COVID-19.

Pastor Artur Pawlowski speaks at a Canadian “freedom rally” in Edmonton, Alberta, on March 20, 2021, part of a worldwide protest against COVID-19 restrictions. (Courtesy of Artur Pawlowski)

In 2005, he began serving and ministering to downtown Calgary—Alberta's poor and downtrodden. "In other words, feeding the homeless and praying for them, which is now illegal," he described to The Epoch Times in a telephone interview while under house arrest in Calgary following his court conviction in May for inciting mischief and violating his release conditions.

The police eventually showed up at Mr. Pawlowski's church, telling him he couldn't feed the homeless by law. Neither was he allowed to assemble or preach in public.

Such actions are also illegal and punishable with tickets, fines, and even jail time.

Artur Pawlowski’s Street Church service provides food for the poor at Olympic Plaza in Calgary, Alberta, on March 2021. (Courtesy of Artur Pawlowski)

"They even have laws on the books that distributing printed materials—Bibles and Gospel tracts—is illegal. So I got tickets for that," Mr. Pawlowski said.

He added that tensions with the authorities had reached the point where police showed up at his church weekly.

During the pandemic, he received 40 tickets for COVID-19 violations, including one for a Christmas celebration he said drew a response from over 100 police officers, 52 police vehicles, as well as anti-terrorism units.

Over 300 Citations

Between 2005 and 2015, Mr. Pawlowski said he received over 300 citations for refusing to stop preaching, feeding the homeless, and doing what he thought was helpful to those in need.

He was arrested and charged in 2006 for reading the Bible in public, and considers being the first Canadian to receive a COVID-19 ticket for feeding the homeless a badge of honor in what he'd say was righteous defiance.

"I asked them a simple question: 'What do you think will happen to the homeless if we kick them out of shelters and shut down soup kitchens?'" he said of his efforts.

European Union flags are displayed at the European Council headquarters in Brussels on Nov. 29, 2019. (KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)

Mr. Pawlowski, pastor of the Cave of Adullam ministry and founder of Street Church Ministries in Calgary, said he has also been granted some victories in the eyes of the law. He won significant court battles through Alberta's provincial courts of appeal.

On Aug. 9, Mr. Pawlowski, a native of Poland and an acolyte of the "Solidarity Movement," could receive up to 10 years in prison for the charge of "inciting mischief" during Canada's nationwide trucker protests last year.

The protests rose in response to the public health rules of Canada's Trudeau administration, sparking a massive "Freedom Convoy" from like-minded residents that threatened to bring the nation's economy to a halt unless COVID-19 restrictions that were also impacting the economy and mental health were lifted.

Response to Government Overreach

As a Christian minister, Mr. Pawlowski said he believed he was waging a spiritual battle against "government overreach" during the pandemic, even if it means he has to pay fines, get arrested, or go to jail.

On Feb. 7, 2022, at the border crossing blockade in Coutts, Alberta, Mr. Pawlowski told a crowd of commercial truckers, "It's about time for Canadians to rise up and start roaring."

"For the first time in two years, you've got the power. They've got the guns, yes—it's all useless when you all rise up. There is no tyrant big enough that can stop [the] masses."

Canadian authorities arrested and charged him with inciting mischief and interfering with essential infrastructure under Alberta's Critical Infrastructure Defense Act of 2020.

The Critical Infrastructure Defense Act "protects essential infrastructure from damage or interference caused by blockades or similar activities, which can cause significant public safety, social, economic and environmental consequences."

Artur Pawlowski with his wife, Marzena, in July 1998. (Courtesy of Artur Pawlowski)

Mr. Pawlowski said Canadian authorities also accused him of promoting "genocide" for referencing the Solidarity Movement contributing to the fall of communism in Poland.

"Of course, if you listened to my service, you will know that I said no guns, no swords, just stand for God and human rights during my sermon three times," he said of the accusation.

Mr. Pawlowski said he spent 50 days in prison, mostly in solitary confinement surrounded by concrete cells, before he was placed in maximum security and a psychiatric ward without evaluation.

The court found him guilty of inciting mischief in May. Judge Gordon Krinke placed him under 12-hour daily house arrest until his sentencing date.

Tony Hall, the founder of We the People YQL takes part in a protest on March 15, 2022 in front of the Lethbridge courthouse where four men charged with conspiracy to commit murder at the Coutts blockade were appearing in court. (The Canadian Press/Bill Graveland)

"So, encouraging Canadians to stand for God and state human rights is a criminal act, a terrorism act," said Mr. Pawlowski, who needs special permission to leave his house between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. "Therefore I am guilty, and all of them are guilty, according to this judge."

Months later, he is "still under house arrest in Calgary," he said.

Belief on Trial

"I am the first Canadian where my sermon and speech were on trial. Everything was about what I said. The lawyers argued what I meant. It was a charade, a show trial—a joke," Mr. Pawlowski said.

"I was not allowed to say a word as they debated what I said and what I meant. They couldn't agree on the wording."

Mr. Pawlowski said he is also the first Canadian citizen charged with eco-terrorism in the history of Canada.

"And now, the judge ruled I am the first Canadian ever to be found guilty of inciting mischief and eco-terrorism," Mr. Pawlowski said. "The Canadian courts are upside down. I am a political prisoner. It has nothing to do with law and order," he expressed.

An Alberta Crown Prosecution Service spokesman told The Epoch Times in an email that the agency has "no comment on this matter."

Sarah Miller of JSS Barristers is currently representing Mr. Pawlowski in the case. She said she "currently cannot speak to media regarding this case while the sentencing is outstanding."

However, Ms. Miller said she does not expect sentencing to occur on Aug. 9. Rather, the proceedings will "set the date for sentencing."

"I hope to be able to speak publicly about this case in the future," Ms. Miller added.

Son Expresses Cry for Help

The pastor's son, Nathan Pawlowski, recently testified in the European Parliament about the "consequences of abuse of power under the guise of help" during the pandemic by the Canadian government.

"I am here today in desperation—a cry for help," Nathan Pawlowski said by videolink from Canada. "I would like to tell you all the things about freedom and democracy that I like, but I no longer know those things.

"They have been taken away from us Canadians. Canada has fallen. We no longer have freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or the right to assemble, associate, or express ourselves, or have free media or disagree with the government."

Nathan Pawlowski said his father could be imprisoned for up to a decade for his trucker sermon and referenced the Solidarity Movement.

"This case sets a precedent with all Canadians—and the world—if you allow this to happen," he said.

He explained that his father was charged with preaching and reading the Bible publicly because the government had ruled that the Bible is "hateful and isn't inclusive."

"My father told the truckers to stand for their rights, Solidarity-style, and to do so peacefully."

"If he goes down, we are all lost as Canadians. If a pastor goes to prison, what can they do to the rest of us?" the younger Pawlowski said.

'Seen This Movie Before'

In a video recording played by his son, Mr. Pawlowski also addressed the European Parliament—as a political dissident "born behind the Iron Curtain of Poland, crushed by the iron fist of oppression" in Canada.

"Freedom is more than a word—it's a measure of our humanity, courage, and determination. It's a cost borne by soldiers, journalists, and volunteers," he said.

Mr. Pawlowski told The Epoch Times he had received offers of money and government positions in exchange for his silence, but he's "not for sale."

"I have seen this movie before" under communism in Poland, he said. "It does not end well."

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