June 20th, 2024

Decision on hold until May for pastor in Coutts protest case

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on February 18, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A Calgary pastor will have to wait another two-and-a-half months before he learns his fate following a trial earlier this month.

Artur Pawlowski stood trial Feb. 2 and 3 on charges of mischief and breaching a release order, as well as a charge under the Alberta Critical Infrastructure Defence Act of wilfully damaging or destroying essential infrastructure. He is accused of encouraging truckers to continue blocking the Coutts border crossing during a protest in January and February of last year.

The Crown’s case against Pawlowski comprised an agreed statement of facts and a 20-minute video of the speech the pastor gave to protesters a year ago, urging them to hold their ground. The defence argued, however, that Pawlowski was expressing his opinion and didn’t incite the crowd.

“The eyes of the world are fixed right here on you guys. You are the heroes. Don’t you dare go breaking the line,” Pawlowski said in the video shown in court.

Following trial, the matter was adjourned to set a date for Judge Gordon Krinke’s decision. The date was confirmed Friday in Lethbridge provincial court and scheduled for May 2.

During Crown Prosecutor Steven Johnston’s closing arguments Feb. 3, he told court the pastor knew what he was doing when he spent a day at the protest and encouraged truckers to continue the blockade, and he intended to fan the flames with his visit.

“He went there to fire up that crowd, to tell them to hold the line, to tell them not to leave, to tell them stand strong,” Johnston said. He also told court Pawlowski referred to the protest as ‘our Alamo.’

“He went to Coutts, lit a match and left the place.”

The blockade began in late January 2022 to protest COVID-19 health restrictions, and it paralyzed the Coutts border crossing for more than two weeks.

Pawlowski said outside of court following his trial he is optimistic about the outcome.

“I believe it went very well. It was a very unusual trial for me because witnesses were not called and the only evidence, if you will, is my sermon in Coutts.”

Several people were also charged after RCMP found a cache of guns, body armour and ammunition in three trailers during the blockade. Four men face charges of conspiracy to commit murder.

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