Christopher Scott, owner of the Whistle Stop Café, speaks during a May rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19. He has launched a legal challenge saying his constitutional rights have been violated. (Photo by The Canadian Press)

Christopher Scott, owner of the Whistle Stop Café, speaks during a May rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19. He has launched a legal challenge saying his constitutional rights have been violated. (Photo by The Canadian Press)

Judge eases some of the restrictions on Mirror café owner convicted of contempt

Christopher Scott’s constitutional rights could be affected by travel and speech restrictions

A Mirror café owner convicted of contempt for disobeying a court order has won partial relief from penalties imposed by a sentencing judge.

Christopher Scott was sentenced by Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Adam Germain on Oct. 13 to three days in prison, but considered time served in jail after being arrested at a May anti-shutdown rally outside his restaurant that went ahead despite a court order prohibiting him from being involved.

The owner of the Whistle Stop Café was also fined $20,000 and ordered to pay just under $11,000 in court costs and do 120 hours of community service. Scott has three years to pay off the court order at no less than $500 per month.

Scott was told he could only leave Alberta for a family emergency with the consent of a probation officer. Germain also ordered that when publicly speaking against Alberta Health Services (AHS) restrictions he acknowledge that his views may not be those held by most medical experts, who favour social distancing, avoiding large crowds and mask-wearing.

Scott’s Calgary lawyer, Chad Williamson, filed a notice of appeal of the sentence with the courts in October. The notice says Scott intends to appeal the judge’s findings of fact as well as the sentence, including the conditions, length and terms of his probation, the community service and a restriction on travel outside of Alberta.

While that process was underway, Scott’s lawyer sought a stay on the penalties until the appeal is heard.

In a decision released on Wednesday, Court of Appeal Justice Jo’Anne Strekaf agreed to stay only the parts of the penalty related to travel restrictions and the requirement that he acknowledge the opinions of medical experts when talking about health restrictions.

“Without deciding the issue, I am satisfied that the applicant has demonstrated that the qualified speech provisions and the travel restrictions arguably affect his mobility rights and right to free expression guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Strekaf wrote.

“The applicant has not demonstrated on the evidence that the community service requirement, fine, costs award, and payment terms constitute irreparable harm in the circumstances.”



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