A Canadian judge has issued a stay against a prior court order requiring Christian Pastor Artur Pawlowski to “echo government officials” whenever he speaks publicly about COVID-19 or vaccines, as well as forbidding him to leave the province of Alberta.
On Wednesday, December 1, Alberta Court of Appeals Justice Jo’Anne Strekaf temporarily blocked government sanctions against Polish-Canadian Pastor Artur Pawlowski that had been issued by Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta Justice Adam Germain. The sanctions required Pawlowski to publicly speak “government approved speech” about COVID-19 and vaccines, including mask-wearing and social distancing, as well as forbidding him from leaving the province of Alberta after Pawlowski went on a speaking tour through the United States, warning Americans of the Canadian government’s authoritarian approach to the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year.
Pawlowski had faced a civil contempt charge for holding church services in violation of a court order that forbade “organizing, promoting, or attending an illegal public gathering,” as well as throwing armed police out of his church when they attempted to inspect it during Sunday worship services for compliance with the Canadian government’s COVID-19 standards. Pawlowski, as well as his brother, were initially arrested on May 8, 2021, and subsequently imprisoned for three days. Pawlowski was arrested a second time this summer after he returned from the United States.
Pawlowski’s attorney, Sarah Miller, argued in court that government compelled speech constituted “irreparable harm,” towards her client, and stated in an interview that the government’s requirements were “bizarre” and “likely unconstitutional” under Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees freedom of expression.
“Once you caveat your speech with things that you don’t believe, how do you rectify that if an appeal is granted?” Miller continued.
Justice Jo’Anne Strekaf agreed with Miller’s position, placing a temporary stay on both the compelled speech and the travel restriction portion of the sentence, writing, “Without deciding the issue, I am satisfied that the applicants have demonstrated that the qualified speech provisions and the travel restrictions arguably affect their mobility rights and rights to free expression guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Strekaf left in place thousands of dollars in costs and fines levied against Pawlowski, as well as the hours of community service he is required to perform with an organization approved by the government.
Miller praised Strekaf’s ruling, saying, “We’re getting somebody who’s listening to the facts and applying the law appropriately.”
Additionally, Pawlowski said he is happy a higher court saw fit to block Germain’s order, saying that compelled speech has more in common with nations such as the Soviet Union or North Korea than free nations like Canada.
“It shows me that the (Canadian) government is terrified of the freedom of speech and the opportunities we had in the United States to tell the whole world what’s really happening behind the Iron Curtain,” Pawlowski said. “I really believe that we are living behind the Iron Curtain in Canada right now; it is a repetition of history.”
Fortunately, the judge got this right as Pawlowski is not exaggerating. Even more so than censored speech, compelled speech is a hallmark of the worst authoritarian governments.
Why? Because while censoring someone’s speech hides the truth temporarily, compelled speech forces a person to speak a lie. And that lie then takes on a life of its own, becoming harder to undo with facts, logic, and truth.
Whether in communist Poland, Nazi Germany, the prisoner of war camps in Vietnam and Japan, or France during the Reign of Terror, under this type of rule the only way for someone to avoid or diminish harsh punishment was to publicly say what the authorities demanded they say — even, and especially, if the person didn’t believe it.
The Canadian government — including a lower court judge bound by an oath to defend the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms — justifies this infringement on the inalienable right of free expression and conscience by saying that it’s “for the greater good,” that Pastor Pawlowski is spreading disinformation about matters of health that could lead to the deaths of others.
But where does it end?
In Canada and the United States, authorities now insist that citizens must speak a transgender person’s preferred pronoun, even though it is a moral and factual lie, or else face job loss or other sanctions. The reasoning? If you don’t affirm a transgender’s “truth” through speech, that person and many, many others will die as a result, either by bigoted violence or by their own hand.
Likewise, we are seeing increased efforts to force healthcare professionals, scientists, and others to set aside their critical thinking and experience when discussing complex and nuanced topics and instead parrot simplistic government propaganda slogans like “Vaccines are safe,” “Fetuses aren’t human,” “Gender is fluid,” and “Man-made climate change is destroying the planet.”
The concept of “the common good before the individual good” might sound like a prescription for a happy, healthy, safe, and virtuous society — until you realize who popularized and implemented this saying: Adolf Hitler.
Utilizing the “greater good” or the “common good” to justify crushing the individual and forcing him or her to not only accept one belief system but to proclaim it publicly is a prescription for destroying free-thinking individuals and a free society. And once a society is no longer free, destruction and death will surely follow — as history itself has truthfully declared time and again.
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