Alberta Health Services says it will need weeks to provide the records requested Tuesday during the trial of a Mirror café owner charged with defying pandemic health orders.
Whistle Stop Café owner Chris 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.
Scott 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.
A two-day trial was scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday in Red Deer provincial court.
During his testimony on Tuesday, health inspector Ian Plischke was asked about how decisions were made to go Scott’s café. 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.
Plischke was asked to provide the information by noon Wednesday or give the court an update on when it might be available.
Crown prosecutor Peter Mackenzie told Red Deer provincial court Judge Jim Glass as court began on Wednesday that Alberta Health Services (AHS) told him that they could not meet the noon deadline. Emails are archived after six months and would take time to recover. Also, health authorities would want to do a review before releasing material.
“They want to do an internal review, principally around solicitor-client privilege,” said Mackenzie.
A pair of RCMP officers testified about their various visits to the Whistle Stop in the morning.
In the afternoon, cross-examination continued of Plischke by Scott’s defence lawyer, Chad Williamson.
Williamson asked the inspector about a Jan. 22, 2021 visit to the Whistle Stop when a closure notice was delivered.
Plischke was asked what Scott gave as his reasons for not complying with health orders.
“To the best I can recall it was that he did not agree with the guidelines,” Plischke testified.
Williamson also asked him whether his notes showed that any visits to the Whistle Stop were prompted by a report of a COVID-19 transmission case there.
Plischke agreed there was no record of that in his reports. Under further questioning, he agreed he had never spoken to Scott because of an actual COVID case at his restaurant. He also said he was not aware of any cases that COVID had spread during events that drew many people held at the Whistle Stop.
He testified that AHS had received complaints from the public saying people with COVID had gone to Whistle Stop. But he acknowledged that was not in his reports as there was no proof that someone with COVID went there.
A pair of senior AHS managers were in the courtroom before Plischke’s cross-examination. They were asked to leave because they may be called as future witnesses depending on what comes forward in the correspondence request.