Human rights complaint filed by Artur Pawlowski against the City of Calgary, Mayor Dave Bronconier, Bill Bruce – Chief BiLaw Officer, Michael Kenny – Manager Calgary Parks on March 6, 2008:
I am a Christian citizen of Canada, and as such am commanded by God to feed and cloth and help the poor. We Christians are also commanded to go out into all the world and preach the good news of the Gospel of Christ to all creation.
Matthew 25:35-45, Mark 16:15
The following is information found in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law:
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
a) freedom of conscience and religion;
b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
d) freedom of association.
I included these items from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because every one of them has been broken by Calgary’s city officials. Attached to this complaint, I have included a short video clip to show only a small sampling of the charter infractions carried out by officers acting on behalf of our city officials. If this video footage is not enough to prove my case, I have over one hundred witnesses that can testify to the ongoing infractions to our Charter guaranteed fundamental freedoms.
These infractions have been occurring for over two years. The infractions demonstrated in the attached video occurred on June 8, 2007.
Let me give you some background information. I am a member of Street Church in Calgary and have been volunteering and helping the poor. Our permit was issued two years in a row (2005 & 2006) each year operating in the same manner. In 2007 our permit was revoked for reasons that we were never found guilty of, namely noise violations. To this day, not once has our ministry received a ticket demonstrating that we have exceeded noise level limits and we have taken care to measure our noise levels to ensure that we honor those noise level bi-laws. As a matter of fact we have a sworn affidavit from Andrew Bissett Operations Co-ordinator from the Court of Queens Bench stating that every investigating officer found "the ministry to be in compliance with the issued Parks permit". Despite the proof from the officers our permit was revoked and when we applied again a new permit was denied to us, despite the fact that we were never proven guilty of breaking the terms of our permit.
In Calgary, seventeen thousand different permits are issued every year to different religious and non-religious groups, and in many cases they are allowed to use loud speakers. In some cases the city relaxes their own laws to allow these permit holders to exceed noise limits for extended periods of time and in fact in many cases these permit holders cause many complaints from near by residents and yet year after year their permits are reissued by the City.
Our ministry does not ask for special treatment, but only to be treated equally. Allowing us to operate without harrassment, to use loud speakers within the perscribed noise level limits as defined by City regulations, and to continue to serve the needs and bring hope to Calgary’s homless population.
The permit is just one of many issues. Our ministry has received thirty-nine tickets and summons, and all of them represent violations to our fundamental rights.
We have received summons and tickets for: “Unlawfully”
- Make available, offer or give away free good and services in the park
- Attract a crowd in a park
- Use public tree to secure an object
- Place a sign in a park
- Place an electrical cord, hose, chain or other similar obstruction over or across any portion of a street
- Create or cause the emissions of any loud and unnecessary noise coming from a vehicle
- Person placing material on the street
- Cause unnecessary noise
- Person making noise which disturbs a person
- Causing objectionable noise
- Operate amplification system
- And more
On one occasion officers came into a private residence of a Street Church member’s house presenting that member with multiple summonses for something that they indicated was done months before, yet did not issue any tickets, warnings or otherwise indicating any alleged offence at the time of said alleged offence.
All of these alleged violations were issued as a result of our ministry taking care of thousands of homeless people, saving their lives, and providing for their most basic necessities of life, which every human being is guaranteed by the Charter of Rights of Freedoms.
On some occasions, while again caring for the needs of the poor, our ministry has been surrounded by over thirty officers and we counted as many as eleven vehicles, including four patty wagons, ghost cars, squad cars, and bi-law vehicles. At some points, officers have used physical force against members and guests, and Street Church property without provocation, to the point that one member has been arrested and dragged like a criminal to jail for simply reading from our most cherished book, the Holy Bible. Our members and guests felt threatened harassed and intimidated, not understanding why our fundamental rights are being ignored and broken by representatives of the law.
There have been many times that police officers have been shown all of the tickets and evidence, which demonstrates the ministry to this day is in compliance with the laws of this nation. They indicated their shock, and sympathy, also not understanding why city officials are acting this way with a ministry that cares so much for the underprivileged and our most vulnerable members of Canadian society, including women and children, and the mentally challenged.
Also, employees of the courts and justice system who have been working in these positions for many years indicated that this is an unprecedented case of harassment. On one occasion Street Church rented a property downtown, and the owner came to us shaking indicating that he was threatened by bi-law officers that if he will not evict us, the city would go after him and his business. He asked us to please remove our belongings from his property since he could not afford to lose his livelihood.
Street Church ministries was also denied access to the Stampede Parade for reasons that we were only allowed to carry a banner of the name of our ministry but we were not allowed to exercise our freedom of religion by carrying banners with the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this country it is generally understood that our guaranteed fundamental freedoms stated by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are enshrined for the protection of the individual against the tyranny of the state or other citizens. When people walk in a park and play their ghetto blaster, they often make loud and objectionable noise, but as long as they stay within the limits outlined in the cities regulations they are allowed to offend and annoy. Annoyance is not grounds for subverting our countries Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Just because a person does not like a message, does not give them rights to ignore fundamental rights.
This case of Charter violations not only impacts the rights and freedoms of Street Church members but also denies rights and most importantly necessities of life to the homeless people that Street Church provides on an ongoing basis. Also, Street Church fills a need that no other organization or ministry is serving, as many of these poor people are barred for life from the very charities and government services that have been set up to take care of them, leaving them destined to die, without food shelter and clothes which Street Church provides regardless of their condition.
To provide for the necessities of life for the poor citizens of Canada is not optional, it is guaranteed by our state and mandated by God himself. Living in the twenty first century knowing the history of many countries around the world that did not stand up for the rights of their citizens, I refuse to be ruled by a dictatorship by people who believe that they are above the highest law of our land just because they represent the law.
I file this complaint based upon our fundamental rights and state that some of the bi-laws implemented by the City of Calgary breach the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and have been used to attack our Christian faith preventing us from fulfilling our Lord God’s commandment.
Any evidence cited in this complaint is available upon request in the form of documentation and video footage.
After filing the above information to the Human Rights Commission, we received a phone call asking us to prove that our ministry was treated differently than other groups. This was our response:
As per our phone conversation, I will describe one prime example of how Street Church has been treated completely different to other organizations. In this instance the Calgary Drop-In Centre was seen doing exactly what Street Church ministries has received summons and tickets for doing, yet they were not bothered by city officials (no police, bi-laws, parking authority, or food inspector presence on the scene). We know from experience that police and bi-law officers drive by that area regularly, every few minutes, yet they don’t care to stop the Drop-In Centre from doing it, but they do try to stop us.
We can provide evidence and numerous witness statements that show that within the past year the Drop-In Centre drove their vehicles, clearly labelled as Drop-In Centre vehicles, into Triangle Park was distributing food and goods and providing free services to the poor. Drop-In Centre created a gathering in the middle of the park for the poor as well. Also, a few vehicles belonging to the Drop-In centre, again clearly labelled Drop-In Centre, were parked in clearly designated no parking zones without fines.
And for the same actions carried out by the Drop-In Centre without fines or harassment, we received summons and tickets as follows:
- Unlawfully gathering a crowd
- Parking tickets (for parking in the exact same spot as Drop-In Centre)
- Unlawfully giving free goods and services
- Placing material in the park
- Driving in the park (being in the park with a vehicle)
Clearly the city officials have no problem with the Drop-In Centre helping the poor, and consider it legal for them to do so, as they are not coercing them to stop. However, according to Andrew Bissett, co-ordinator bylaw services operations, what is obviously considered "helping the poor" for the Drop-In Centre, is contrarily breaking the law for Street Church. As quoted from Metro News Newspaper March 24, 2008, "He [Art Pawlowski] is not supposed to be here."… "[gathering] was taking place yesterday unlawfully [Sunday, March 23, 2008 Easter event feeding the poor]"
Further to the statements by Andrew Bissett, is the statement made by his boss Bill Bruce, "[Street Church] they have to work within the rules and regulations that everyone else has to follow." It seems obvious there are two sets of rules one for Street Church and one for everybody else, including the Drop-In Centre.
This is just one example, of many that we can cite, which proves that Street Church is treated differently than other organizations. Many more, clear incidents, demonstrating that the city allows others to do what it repeatedly denies us, not only by Drop-In Centre but also other organizations similar to ours – taking care of the poor, can be provided as needed.
Another example, just briefly, of clear discrimination against Street Church is that numerous peaceful demonstrations happen in front of City Hall, some with amplification, and yet they are not charged fined or harassed for demonstrating. In contrast, Street Church members have been harassed on numerous occasions by city officials and were intimidated and discouraged from demonstrating, along with being fined, showing a clear bias against us.
One of many such occasions is the event that happened on Thursday September 20, 2007:
Rally for Housing (http://www.homelessawareness.ca/events.html)
Thursday, September 20th, 2007 | 12:00 – 1:00pm | Steps of City Hall
Calgary Housing Action Initiative is organizing a Rally for Housing in front of City Hall. In the lead up to the municipal election, it is time to let our representatives know that Calgarians are still struggling with the housing crisis. Come and make your voice heard! For more information call Jennifer at 270-3200 or email [email protected].
In the above instance amplification was used and no fines were issued nor did police or bylaw harassment occur.
Preventing us from feeding the poor and providing necessities of life for the less fortunate not only infringes on our rights but on the rights guaranteed to every citizen of Canada, by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to basic essentials for living. The government’s interference in the work and ministry of Street Church is putting the lives of many homeless people on the line. Many people’s lives have already been saved by the work and ministry of Street Church downtown and in many cases we are their only avenue for the basic necessities of life (some are barred from every shelter in the city – destined to die without our help).
Our case demonstrates clear, bold, and systematic discrimination and denial of charter guaranteed fundamental freedoms. If our case is not worthy of the AHRC, then no case is. There are way too many clear infractions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for our case to be overlooked or put aside for political reasons.
For every allegation, pictures, eye witness statements, and videos are available upon request.