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Mirror café owner’s legal battle against pandemic charges expected to be lengthy

Lawyers for both sides return to court on April 12 to discuss potential evidence

The trial for a Mirror café owner accused of breaking health pandemic health regulations has become a lengthy legal battle.

Three days had been set aside this week to continue a trial that began in Red Deer provincial court last August for Chris Scott, who 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.

Scott, who owns the Whistle Stop Cafe, was charged after health inspectors and RCMP officers made numerous visits between January and April 2021 to check on his restaurant after he had been warned he was violating health orders in place at the time prohibiting in-person dining.

During testimony in August, health inspector Ian Plischke was asked about how decisions were made to go to Scott’s eatery. Plischke testified he could not remember all of the details, which prompted the defence to request all emails, correspondence and notes to and from Plischke from Dec. 11, 2020 to April 30, 2021, relating to Scott or the Whistle Stop.

Defence lawyer Chad Williamson said after receiving that disclosure his position is that there is additional relevant communications between Alberta Health Services and Alberta Gaming Liquor and Cannabis, RCMP, the provincial attorney general and possibly provincial political representatives that have not been disclosed.

An application for further disclosure was made in November. “Basically, we’re looking for any and all correspondence, memos, meeting notes, anything whatsoever where any of these agencies were talking about going after Chris Scott,” said Williamson on Tuesday.

“The reason for doing so is we believe it will support our Charter application and our constitutional arguments basically showing that Chris was a target, a political target, and none of this had anything to do with public health.”

After a couple of hours while lawyers discussed various legal aspects of the case it was adjourned to April 12. Arguments are expected to be heard that day about what communications should be considered first party correspondence, which must be disclosed, or third party communications, such as correspondence involving the premier’s office, which do not necessarily have to be turned over. Lawyers representing provincial and federal agencies are also expected to make arguments.

Following that court date, another is expected to be set so both sides can argue before a judge specifically which correspondence should be disclosed to the defence.

Meanwhile, the Crown prosecutor’s office has made an application to strike parts of the Charter and constitutional challenges the defence is making. That application will be heard at a later date.

Williamson said the legal wrangling is expected to take some time.

“We’re still in the middle of the trial and we’re still in the middle of the Crown’s evidence. The defence hasn’t even put on our case yet.”

An AHS spokesperson declined to comment. “We aren’t able to comment on this while it is before the courts,” she said in an email.

In a video posted on his Facebook page on Monday, Scott talked about the toll, both financial and mental, that the ongoing legal proceedings have taken. If not for funding help from groups such as The Democracy Fund “there is no way in hell I’d be able to stand up against the government, nor would almost anyone else.

“I really need people to understand this is almost an impossible task for one person to shoulder this. I feel the stress of this all the time.”

Founded in 2021, The Democracy Fund is a Canadian charity that says it is dedicated to constitutional rights, advancing education and relieving poverty.

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