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Alberta Health Services drops contempt of court application against Calgary pastor

CALGARY — Alberta Health Services says it has withdrawn its contempt of court application against a Calgary pastor who was arrested earlier this month on allegations of violating COVID-19 laws.

Tim Stephens was arrested May 9 for allegedly organizing a church service that was held earlier in the day at Fairview Baptist Church, which police said did not comply with public health orders.

An injunction obtained by Alberta Health Services (AHS) on May 6 mandated that event organizers comply with public health restrictions, including masking, physical distancing and attendance limits.

AHS, the agency that delivers health care in Alberta, says in a statement that it withdrew its application against Stephens due to an issue of mistaken identity when the injunction was served.

The Justice Centre, a Canadian legal organization, says that three of its lawyers representing Stephens discovered that AHS never served the pastor with the court order he was accused of having violated.

The organization says in a statement that the mistake means the case against Stephens has been dropped. 

“Pastor Stephens was never served with a copy of the court injunction, a prerequisite for the enforcement of an injunction,” the Justice Centre said in its statement Friday.

“Calgary Police Service officers erroneously served a copy of the injunction upon another individual who is not Pastor Stephens. At no time did (the police) ever serve the injunction upon Pastor Stephens.”

The injunction was issued after dozens of anti-lockdown protesters gathered outside the Whistle Shop Café in the hamlet of Mirror, Alta. AHS then said it would take legal action to stop any planned protests of COVID-19 public health orders. 

The agency said it closed the café after it received more than 400 complaints against the business since January.

In its statement Friday, AHS said it will continue to enforce the order on “all other organizers of advertised illegal gatherings and rallies that breach COVID-19 public health orders.” 

“AHS strongly condemns the intentional disobeying of COVID-19 public health restrictions.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2021. 

The Canadian Press