By Kevin Martin, Calgary Sun
Calgary street preacher Art Pawlowski won’t face additional punishment for instigating the hijacking of the Stampede parade two years ago, a judge ruled Monday.
Provincial court Judge Mark Tyndale agreed with defence counsel Michael Bates that Pawlowski should not be severely punished for attempting to exercise his right to free speech.
City prosecutor Ola Malik had argued a fine of up to $2,000 — 10 times the normal amount — would be appropriate, given that Pawlowski was the “ringleader” of a planned interruption of the annual march.
Pawlowski and three of his Street Church Ministry followers were convicted earlier this year of breaching a city bylaw prohibiting interfering with parades.
“I don’t know if the others would have stepped into the parade route without Mr. Pawlowski,” Malik said.
The prosecutor earlier agreed the followers should be handed the stipulated penalty in the bylaw of $200.
Tyndale questioned why Pawlowski should be treated differently from the others, and handed a fine above what city council set as the normal penalty.
“Did he do anything differently than the other three?” Tyndale said.
“No, but he said ‘let’s go,’” Malik noted.
“It’s his leadership that the others are looking up to and following,” the prosecutor said.
He also noted Street Church Ministry received a lot of publicity for jumping into the front of the parade at the start line behind the pace car and remaining there for almost the entire route.
“This is the most amount of publicity Street Church Ministry has ever received,” Malik said.
“They’re getting all the attention and loving it,” he said.
“They picked the largest event, the most-watched event to engage in.”
But the judge noted it wasn’t Street Church which received publicity by their participation, since they were carrying signs which spelled out the name “Jesus.”
“The Crown conceded that the bylaw itself contravened Mr. Pawlowski’s (free speech) rights,” said Tyndale, who earlier found it was a justifiable breach of the Charter.
“In my view Mr. Pawlowski had valid concerns over the scope of the bylaw and contested the bylaw in an appropriate manner,” Tyndale said.
“Mr. Pawlowski is a man who considers his Charter rights, especially freedom of expression and freedom of religion as more tangible than words written on a document,” he said.
The judge agreed with Bates’ assertion the actions of his client amounted to a “test case” of the bylaw’s validity.