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Mirror café owner on trial for defying health orders

Lawyers for Chris Scott argue his constitutional rights violated

Mirror café owner and anti-lockdown activist Chris Scott was in a Red Deer courtroom on Tuesday fighting charges of violating health orders during the pandemic.

About 20 supporters of Scott joined him in the courtroom. Another half dozen remained outside and at one point a semi-tractor trailer with “End the Mandates” painted on the side drove by honking its horn. It stopped briefly before a police officer asked it to move on.

Scott is facing nine charges laid under the Alberta Health Act, as well as a pair of other charges related to operating his café when his licence was suspended.

He was charged after he was visited by a health inspector a number of times between January and April 2021 and warned he was violating health orders that prohibited in-person dining.

Scott’s lawyers, Chad Williamson and Yoav Niv said outside court they intend to argue that Scott’s constitutional rights were violated and all charges should be stayed by the judge.

“This case strikes to the heart of our constitution, our right to freedom of expression, a right to freely assemble, peacefully demonstrate and to civil disobedience, which is a time-honoured tradition in this country,” said Williamson.

“Peaceful protest is a cornerstone of a vibrant, thriving democracy and, frankly, we think that the Alberta government infringed on Chris’s rights and the rights of Albertans. And we hope the court sees it that way as well.”

“This is obviously a balance of public health and a cornerstone of democracy and in that respect democracy, our constitution and the liberties in this country have to prevail over the mandates that were in effect specifically in these circumstances.

“This was not the Black Death, this was not the zombie apocalypse. To be fair, COVID has had a profound impact in this province but the loss of our democratic rights would be devastating, perhaps to future generations and perhaps the very basis and foundation of this country, and they must be protected.”

Crown prosecutor Peter Mackenzie called two RCMP officers and a health inspector as witnesses and walked them through their numerous visits to the café and interactions with Scott.

All confirmed that Scott was polite and respectful during their chats in which he was told he was violating health regulations. They also agreed Scott told them he was protesting the health orders.

Health inspector Ian Plischke said when he went to the café accompanied by RCMP on Jan. 22, 2021 people were eating inside despite health restrictions at the time that prohibited dine-in food service. He told Scott it was against the rules on posted a notice alerting people to the health order in place.

He went back a few days later and people were still eating inside. In April, his food permit was revoked after being accused of numerous violations.

Under cross-examination, Williamson questioned Plischke about the decision making at AHS that led to the numerous health inspector visits.

Plischke could not recall of the details of meetings and correspondence but said there were emails and other correspondence.

Williamson asked the judge if the witness could leave the room. He then requested that Plischke be required to provide emails, notes and other correspondence to and from him from Dec. 11 2020 to April 30, 2021.

When Plischke returned, the judge told him what had been requested and that it be provided if possible by noon on Wednesday, at which time the cross-examination of Plischke would continue.

“It’s a big ask,” said Plischke, who said he would try to gather the material.

The Crown prosecutor said he intended to call two RCMP officers as witnesses on Wednesday.

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Paul Cowley

About the Author: Paul Cowley

Paul grew up in Brampton, Ont. and began his journalism career in 1990 at the Alaska Highway News in Fort. St. John, B.C.
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