A prominent Canadian pastor who has emerged as an outspoken critic of his government's response to the coronavirus pandemic has been released from prison after nearly two months in custody.
Pastor Artur Pawlowski of Street Church and the Cave of Adallum in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, was released from prison Wednesday after 51 days of being moved between a cell and solitary confinement.
Pawlowski was arrested last month for allegedly inciting "mischief" by addressing a crowd of truckers gathered at the Canada-United States border to protest the mandate requiring truck drivers who transport goods between the two countries to either get the vaccine or quarantine for several days upon re-entry into the country.
Critics of the Canadian government, including Rebel News' Ezra Levant, described Pawlowski's arrest as "an attempt to stop him from expressing himself politically to these truckers." Rebel News also created a website, SaveArtur.com, to raise money for the pastor's legal bills.
The gathering of truckers, known as the Freedom Convoy, became a target of immense criticism from both the Canadian government and the private sector. The crowdfunding platform GoFundMe pulled a fundraiser created to raise money to cover the cost of the truckers' expenses, purportedly following "multiple discussions with local law enforcement and police reports of violence and other unlawful activity."
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defamed the truckers, who represented a wide swath of ethnicities and religions, as proponents of "antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-black racism, homophobia, and transphobia."
Officials in the Canadian capital of Ottawa seized fuel from truckers and those seeking to provide fuel for the truckers to stay warm inside their cabins amid freezing temperatures, citing a belief that access to fuel was enabling the truckers to persist in causing "mischief."
Rebel News reporter Adam Soos posted a video of Pawlowski leaving the Calgary Remand Centre on his Twitter account Wednesday. Pawlowski embraced his wife Marzena and son, Nathaniel, before Nathaniel Pawlowski drove his parents back home. Pawlowski, sitting in the passenger's seat of the car, reached across his son to wave at the camera.
Ahead of Pawlowski's release, Soos reported that "all those gathered to greet Artur upon his release have been instructed to leave immediately under threat Artur would be arrested again should anyone speak with him before he leaves the Calgary Remand Centre grounds." Prior to officials at the Calgary Remand Centre demanding that the crowd disperse, an image captured by Soos showed a group of supporters, led by Pawlowski's wife and son, standing in line hoping to greet the pastor.
In an interview with Soos, Pawlowski's attorney Sarah Miller said that a judge agreed to release the pastor from custody on bail conditions that she characterized as "quite strict."
Miller explained that while "this is not the full-blown celebratory type situation that we would hope for because he is under very strict conditions," she concluded that "being under strict conditions at home with his family is a far better cry" than spending time behind bars.
The Calgary Herald reported that Pawlowski's bail conditions include "a nightly curfew of 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., with exceptions that include Street Church services, and that he not attend any protests." Should Pawlowski violate the terms of his bail, his wife and son could be forced to pay $20,000 and $4,000, respectively. While Pawlowski was granted bail for his role in purportedly creating "mischief" stemming from his appearance at the border blockade, he was ordered to remain in prison for additional days on other charges.
Specifically, the charges that kept Pawlowski in prison included allegations that he "twice breached court orders to abide by COVID-19 public health measures and caused a disturbance at a Shoppers Drug Mart." Pawlowski had to put up a $25,000 cash deposit in order to secure his release, while his wife and son had to provide payments of $10,000 and $2,000, respectively.
Miller told Rebel News that Pawlowski has "quite a few criminal trials coming up," adding, "he's facing up to $100,000 for attending a gathering ... in front of city hall." The news outlet also noted that the pastor spent much of his time behind bars in solitary confinement.
Pawlowski first gained notoriety after documenting his tense exchanges with local law enforcement officials seeking to enforce coronavirus worship restrictions in videos that went viral. The videos, published last spring, featured the Polish immigrant to Canada likening the public health officials to "Nazis" and the "Gestapo" as they repeatedly entered the Cave of Adallum Church during Passover services and confronted him weeks later during a church service.
In a previous interview with The Christian Post, Pawlowski accused the local government of abiding by a double standard regarding the enforcement of coronavirus worship restrictions because while they targeted his church for holding in-person worship services, "the mosques were fully operational" and "no one harassed them, no one interfered with them." He also contended that government officials had developed a "personal vendetta" against him.