Skip to content

Pandemic-related charges expected to be dropped against central Albertans

Judge’s decision that Public Health Act was violated by provincial officials affected court cases
Lawyers Chad Williamson (right) and Yoav Niv (front left) leave Red Deer Court of Justice earlier this year. (Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff)

Charges of violating Alberta’s Public Health Act are expected to be dropped on Monday against Whistle Stop Cafe owner Chris Scott.

Likewise, charges against Bowden-area anti-lockdown rodeo organizer Ty Northcott and Red Deer diner owner Wesley Langlois are also expected to be tossed out.

“Chris Scott’s defence team expects an acquittal to be entered in his favour at his court appearance on Aug. 28 in light of the Ingram decision, which found that the COVID public health orders were invalid as a result of cabinet making the decisions rather than the Chief Medical Officer during the pandemic — contrary to what was required by the legislation,” said Scott’s lawyer Chad Williamson in an email Thursday.

Williamson is also representing Langlois, who has been fighting a $1,200 ticket he received during the pandemic.

Langlois, who owns Mom’s Diner owner with his wife Leslie Clothier, was ticketed in January 2021 for defying a public health order in place at the time that did not allow in-person dining at eateries.

Williamson expects to see that charge withdrawn when Langlois’ case returns to court on Sept. 15.

Court of King’s Bench Justice Barbara Romaine issued her long-awaited ruling on July 31. In her 90-page decision, she found Alberta’s Public Health Act was breached when politicians, instead of the chief medical officer of health made final decision on health restrictions.

The decision was named after plaintiff and gym owner Rebecca Ingram, whose business was affected by health restrictions, including closures and distancing rules.

The Alberta Crown Prosecution Service said in a written statement it has reviewed the Ingram decision and has concluded there is no longer a reasonable likelihood of conviction in relation to Public Health Act charges involving the contravention of the disputed orders from the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

“Subsequently, the ACPS is taking the appropriate steps to deal with these matters, including those where there was a conviction, in due course.”

Williamson said “while we appreciate that this represents a victory for Chris, it is pyrrhic to a degree. We maintain that Chris was subjected to a targeted political prosecution for a period of nearly two years by every available arm of the Alberta Government and its administrative bodies.

“We believe that some of the evidence we obtained through litigation showed there was a political axe to grind. That is not acceptable in Alberta. If an acquittal is granted, we’ll be prevented from exploring that further, at least in these proceedings.”

Scott is facing seven charges of violating the Public Health Act and one violation under the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act. He 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 trial began last August and during the cross-examination of a health inspector, the defence learned of additional disclosure held by Alberta Health Services. An application was made to get the information and 1,000 pages of email correspondence and attachments were turned over in October.

The information led Scott’s lawyers to file a supplemental Charter notice alleging abuse of process, claiming there was a co-ordinated and politically motivated effort to go after their client.

“The lesson to be learned is that when confronted with injustice, it’s important to defend yourself and stand up for your rights,” says Williamson.

“Had Chris capitulated to the demands of the government, he would not be looking at a potential victory this week. This is an important win for liberty, peaceful protest, and freedom in a country and province where cardinal democratic principles are under constant attack.”

Lawren Wowk, who is representing anti-lockdown rodeo organizer Ty Northcott, said he will ask the judge to enter a stay of proceedings when that case returns to court on Aug. 31.

Last month, Red Deer Justice Jim Hunter found that Northcott and his company violated Alberta’s Public Health Act on May 1, 2021 by holding the No More Lockdowns Rodeo Rally to protest pandemic-related health restrictions. It was held on his property south of Bowden and drew more than 1,000 people.

At the time, large gatherings of more than 10 people, such as concerts and sporting events, were banned to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Wowk was pursuing a Constitutional challenge, which was adjourned to await the Ingram decision.

News tips

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Chris Scott, owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe is expected to have charges against him dropped next week. (Photo by The Canadian Press)

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.
Read more