Aug 302023

Pastor James Coates and GraceLife Church acquitted following Ingram decision

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STONY PLAIN, AB: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is pleased to announce that Pastor James Coates and GraceLife Church have been acquitted of all charges. This follows the consequential Ingram v. Alberta decision, in which Justice Barbara Romaine of the Alberta Court of King’s Bench determined that the Covid health restrictions imposed by the Government of Alberta were invalid.

Pastor Coates and the congregation of GraceLife church had been gathering for worship services throughout 2020 and 2021, exercising their Charter freedoms of religion, conscience, association and peaceful assembly. On February 15, 2021, after holding a church service the previous day, Pastor Coates was arrested by officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) for violating gathering restrictions. When he refused to sign an undertaking promising that he would obey Public Health Orders which unjustifiably violated his Charter freedoms, Pastor Coates was jailed in the Edmonton Remand Centre on February 16, 2021. Counsel for Pastor Coates filed an appeal to have him released before his trial, which had been set for May 3-5, 2021.

On March 22, 2021, after spending 35 days in jail, Pastor Coates was released from jail. At a June 7, 2021 hearing, Judge Robert Shaigec stated that Pastor Coates’ right to liberty had not been violated by his 35-day jailing since he could have complied with the undertaking and could have agreed to observe the Public Health Orders.

On July 31, 2023, the Alberta Court of King’s Bench released a consequential decision in Ingram v. Alberta: the Public Health Orders that Pastor Coates and GraceLife church had violated were found to be ultra vires the Public Health Act and were, therefore, invalid. The Act requires that all decisions with respect to public health orders must be made by the Chief Medical Officer of Health and not by the Alberta Cabinet. In her concluding remarks, Justice Barbara Romaine stated, “While involvement of elected officials in these important decisions may be desirable and even necessary, this involvement should have been structured in such a way as to mitigate the risk of political priorities interfering with the informed and well-qualified judgment of the [Chief Medical Officer of Health], as provided in the Public Health Act, without ignoring the underlying public interest.” (emphasis added)

As a consequence of this decision, all charges against Pastor Coates and GraceLife Church have been dismissed by the Crown, and the Crown will not be seeking a further jail sentence for Pastor Coates. Further, it is expected that the Alberta Crown will withdraw all Covid-related tickets and may reimburse all fines for violations of Covid-related public health orders paid by Albertans.

Justice Centre President John Carpay stated, “It has been, and remains, a great honour to assist and stand with courageous Albertans like Pastor James Coates, Sheila Annette Lewis, Pastor Tim Stephens, Ty Northcott, and so many other courageous Canadians who exercised their Charter freedoms when faced with unjust and unscientific lockdown measures.”

Lawyer Leighton Grey stated, “Pastor James Coates and GraceLife Church endured a great deal of vilification and abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was meted out by the media, the Kenney government, Alberta Health Services, the RCMP, many Albertans, and even the Alberta Courts. One Judge went so far as to accuse Pastor Coates of endangering the lives of many Albertans, without there being any evidence before the Court to substantiate that accusation. That same Judge even threatened to give Coates even more jail time than the 35 days he had already served. Another Judge told Pastor Coates that, despite having been jailed, his Charter right to liberty had somehow not been violated. In the end, all of the Covid lockdown restrictions were declared illegal. So, this is a day of justice for Pastor Coates and indeed for every Albertan who continues to support the Supremacy of God and the Rule of Law.”

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