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Canadian pastor Artur Pawlowski went viral after refusing to allow Canadian police to monitor worship services and calling them “Gestapo,” but after the police made a show of force in arresting him and his brother this past weekend, his accusations don’t seem so farfetched.
Artur and Dawid Pawlowski grew up behind the Iron Curtain in Poland, making them more than able to recognize the hallmarks of a tyrannical police force and government. In Canada, they say they see the Iron Curtain falling yet again, this time across the Great White North.
In April 2020, Pastor Pawlowski was fined $1,200 for feeding the homeless outside. He also went viral after a video posted to YouTube showed him ordering police out of his Easter/Passover services. “And don’t come back without a warrant!,” he shouted at them. “…You’re not welcome here. Nazis are not welcomed here. Gestapo is not welcomed here. Do not come back, you Nazi psychopaths.”
Weeks later, Pawlowski had another run-in with police attempting to observe services. He told authorities, “I’m not interested in any word that you have to say. I do not cooperate with Gestapo, I do not talk to the Nazis. Brown shirts of Adolf Hitler. You are Nazi, Gestapo, communist, fascists! I do not cooperate with Nazis!”
After recent events, Pawlowski’s claims look less like hyperbole and Canada is looking more like a police state.
On Saturday, Artur and Dawid Pawlowski were arrested by a team of officers for holding “illegal” church services in violation of COVID orders. Video of the arrest shows officers handcuffing the brothers on a busy highway and carrying them to the police car. Calgary Police issued a statement saying,
“Earlier this morning, CPS lawfully enforced this order by proactively serving an organizer of a church service with the court order in an effort to ensure that citizens attending the Saturday service were abiding by the current COVID-19 public health orders. The order was served prior to the church service, and CPS did not enter the church during the service.
The service organizer acknowledged the injunction, but chose to ignore requirements for social distancing, mask wearing and reduced capacity limits for attendees, and continued with the event.
As a result, Artur Pawlowski and Dawid Pawlowski have both been arrested and charged with organizing an illegal in-person gathering, including requesting, inciting or inviting others to attend an illegal public gathering, promoting and attending an illegal public gathering.
It is important to understand that law enforcement recognizes people’s desire to participate in faith-based gatherings as well as the right to protest. However, as we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic, we all must comply with public health orders in order to ensure everyone’s safety and wellbeing.”
Rebel News was able to do a phone interview with Pawlowski from his jail cell. In the interview, Pawlowski claimed he had not spoken to his lawyers. Rebel News stated that his lawyers had been trying to contact him, but police would not allow him to receive their calls. The pastor said that his cell has no blanket or pillow and he is forced to sit on a concrete slab. He also asserted that other prisoners are allowed to turn their lights off while his light remains on constantly.
Pawlowski isn’t the first pastor to be jailed for violating COVID orders. James Coates of Grace Life Church was also arrested this past spring and jailed for 35 days. After his release, his church was barricaded by police.
Canadian police have gone after small business owners as well. Chris Scott, owner of the Whistle Stop Café in Alberta, was arrested at a protest against COVID restrictions called “Save Alberta Campout Protest.” Scott’s restaurant was forcibly closed after authorities allegedly received more than 400 complaints. Authorities claim that they attempted to educate protesters supporting Scott on the COVID restrictions for three hours before beginning to issue tickets.
These cases aren’t anomalies. The Province of Ontario has also put in place harsh restrictions that essentially ban people from being outside. Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said, “Moving forward, police will have the authority to require any individual who is not in a place of residence to, first, provide their purpose for not being at home, and provide their home address.” She added, “Police will also have the authority to stop a vehicle to inquire about an individual’s reason for leaving their residence.”
Those who refuse to answer police questioning can be fined $750 for a first offense. “It is imperative that everyone limit their trips outside of the home to permitted purposes only, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, medical appointments, outdoor exercise, or for work that cannot be done remotely,” Jones added.
Ontario’s restrictions also include prohibiting outdoor gatherings of more than one household, limiting worship services to 10 people, and a forced closure of any non-essential construction projects.
In January, Quebec enacted an austere curfew of 8 p.m. on its 8.4 million residents and still hasn’t fully lifted it. People caught outside their home past the curfew could be fined $6,000 Canadian (or $4,278 U.S.). For the past several weekends, thousands of Montreal residents have come out to protest the various COVID measures
“We’re here to defend our liberties, we’re saying no to confinement, no to the curfew,” said one protester. “This is the first time in the history of humanity that we have used curfews and confinements to battle against a virus, we need to stop this now.”
The province of Alberta has also introduced stricter restrictions this past week. These include moving all students to in-home learning, closing businesses, and limiting worship services to 15 people. The basic fine for a first offense is $2,000.
Pawlowski’s response to government intrusion may seem overdramatic, even obstinate. However, seeing Canada’s heavy-handed restrictions in action leads one to believe that he is correct. The government deeming worship services as “illegal gatherings” and officers being allowed to question anyone seen outside their home means Canada has — whether intentionally or not — transformed into a police state.
The government has suspended Canada’s Charter of Rights through the Canadian Quarantine Act, meaning they have seized total control allowing for the violating of citizens’ rights in the name of “safety.”
Psychologist Erich Fromm studied why people who had suffered in the Great Depression were willing to turn over their freedoms to the Nazis. He explained,
“Modern man still is anxious and tempted to surrender his freedom to dictators of all kinds, or to lose it by transforming himself into a small cog in the machine, well fed, and well clothed, yet not a free man but an automaton.”
This is the situation faced in Canada and around the world today. The question is: Will men and women exchange their liberty for security, or will they stand up against totalitarian control?
The 2014 film “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is a shrewd contemporary analysis of the debate of safety versus liberty. In one of the movie’s most poignant moments, Captain America delivers a rallying speech in which he says, “The price of freedom is high, it always has been. It’s a price I’m willing to pay. And if I’m the only one then so be it, but I’m willing to bet I’m not.”
Men like Coates and Pawlowski have shown that they are willing to pay the price in order to secure freedom. If Canadians want their freedom back from a government that appears happy to take it, many more citizens will have to stand up and also be willing to pay the price.