As I write this column, Pastor James Coates is still in the Edmonton Remand Centre awaiting his trial on May 3-5. He was arrested in mid-February for failing to comply with Jason Kenney's unscientific and unconstitutional health orders that restrict the freedom of Pastor Coates and his Grace Life Church to worship God as God calls them to worship.
Unless the Justice Centre secures his release from prison prior to trial, Pastor Coates will spend a total of eleven weeks in jail for a provincial infraction that is not punishable by jail time.
Are health orders scientific? The Alberta government–and governments around the world–continue to restrict our rights and freedoms based on their belief that healthy, asymptomatic people are significant spreaders of COVID. Hence the laws mandating masks and prohibiting normal and healthy social interactions between people. The politicians' belief in asymptomatic spread is unfounded.
A meta-analysis of 54 studies from around the world, published by the National Library of Medicine found that within households (which lack the safeguards applied by restaurants, businesses and churches) symptomatic patients passed on the disease to household members in 18 percent of instances, while asymptomatic patients passed on the disease to household members in 0.7 percent of instances.
This is confirmed by a separate, smaller meta-analysis. I've repeatedly asked the Alberta government to produce the science that would support the notion that asymptomatic people are dangerous spreaders, but to no avail. We're told that government policies are "scientific" but when you ask to see the science, none is provided.
Restricting the rights and freedoms of the entire population for 12 months (and counting), and preventing millions of people from earning a livelihood, has never been tried in human history as a way to beat a virus. Moreover, Covid's survival rate is 99.7 percent, and this virus poses no threat to roughly 90 percent of people. Why not focus our efforts on protecting the vulnerable 10 percent, and do so without harming the physical, mental, emotional, social and financial well-being of the entire population?
Like most people, Pastor Coates and his church complied fully with health orders in March of 2020, when the world was terrorized by the fearmongering predictions of Neil Ferguson of Imperial College. Twelve months later, the data and statistics from governments around the world tell us that COVID warrants only a small fraction of the fear we ascribe to it. Further, once a virus is out and about, it cannot be stopped by destroying the economy, by forcing people to reduce their social interactions to a two-dimensional computer screen, or by closing houses of worship.
As we progressed through 2020, the government restrictions on our freedom to move, travel, associate, assemble and worship made less and less sense. What became more apparent with time is the massive harm that lockdowns inflict: deaths from cancelled surgeries and delayed surgeries; deaths from cancer because of delayed MRIs and CT scans; deaths from drug overdoses and suicides; unemployment; poverty; isolation and loneliness leading to stress, anxiety, and depression; children told to live in fear, deprived of sports, recreation and healthy social interactions; and massive new debt that our children and grandchildren must repay.
Backed by science and called by God, Grace Life and its pastors have displayed the courage to hold full church services since July of 2020, in the face of weekly harassment and intimidation by Jason Kenney's ever-growing army of health inspectors.
When the Alberta Government argued at a March 4, 2021 court hearing that Pastor Coates should remain in jail for another eight weeks pending his trial in May, Crown prosecutor Karen Thorsrud presented no evidence that full churches pose any threat to public health.
The government's failure to provide evidence, after nearly a full year of violating the Charter freedoms of Albertans, is a disgrace. Governments have had an easy ride these past 12 months, using news conferences to declare repeatedly that their lockdowns are "scientific" and "evidence-based."
Pro-lockdown media were–and still are–more than happy to spread the government's message of fear, citing meaningless numbers of "cases" based on unreliable PCR tests which were never designed to diagnose COVID.
Fortunately, the Alberta government cannot rely on press releases at the trial of Pastor Coates in May. The health orders themselves will be on trial, accused of unjustifiably violating fundamental Charter freedoms. The Charter places the onus on government, not on Pastor Coates, to show that it is truly necessary and beneficial to violate citizens' rights and freedoms.
In court in May, for the first time since lockdowns were imposed, the Alberta government will have to provide compelling evidence to support its theories. The government will have to show that COVID is an unusually deadly killer, when Statistics Canada tells us it is not.
The government will have to show that asymptomatic people spread the virus, when science tells us that only sick people are serious spreaders. The government will have to provide actual evidence to support its claim that lockdowns save lives; mere assertions won't suffice.
The government will have to respond to the data showing that hospitals have already been overcrowded for many years, long before Covid arrived, and the data showing that ICU admissions in Alberta were actually down in 2020, not up. Last but not least, the government will have to answer for all of the massive harms that lockdowns have caused, and are still causing, and prove that lockdowns do more good than harm.
Currently there is no justice for Pastor Coates in jail. But his trial in May will provide an opportunity for justice for millions of Albertans and millions of Canadians.
Lawyer John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms which represents Pastor Coates and Grace Life Church.