With the ebullient news that the prosecutor and defense have negotiated an agreement to see James Coates released from prison, it has set the stage for the imprisoned pastor to be released as soon as tomorrow, providing the judge in the case doesn’t throw a monkey wrench in the proceedings by denying their agreement.
Through negotiations with the crown, the prosecutors have agreed to withdraw all charges but one. They are withdrawing one charge of violating the health order, as well as one charge of failing to comply with the undertaking that the police imposed on Pastor Coates.
John Carpay of the JFFC says that there have been some deep negotiations behind the scenes, with experienced criminal defense lawyers on staff such as James Kitchen, Leighton Gray, James Cameron, and Jocelyn Gerke doing a lot of legwork and research to get to this point.
There’s been some back and forth with the crown on what we think the law is, and working out a solution that both sides could live with. Obviously, the government does not want to lose face. They don’t want to be seen as just suddenly walking away from this after telling everybody that we need to have all these ridiculous restrictions in order to save lives. They can’t just back down that easily and suddenly walk away from it.
With this resolution in hand, the case will go before a judge in a few days, where the prosecutor and defense will submit a joint submission. While it’s highly likely that the judge will accept it, it is important to note that it’s not guaranteed or a foregone conclusion. While it would be very rare, it is not without precedent that the judge could refuse to accept the joint submission and keep James incarcerated until his trial or until he accepts the conditions that prohibit him from stepping foot on church property. Alberta still considers itself in the midst of a public health crisis, and the judge may be immovable.
If the judge does approve the joint submission, then James will plead guilty to one of the two charges of violating a health order have to pay a $100 fine and then be released without conditions. At this point it is unclear if this fine is in addition to the $1200 he was previously charged with several months ago.
It’s important to know that the other health order charge is still taking place, with Coates pleading ‘Not Guilty.’
This is by design.
The JFFC and Pastor Coates are refusing to plead guilty so that they can force a trial. This is what they want. The nature of his trial will be unique, as it won’t so much be Coates on trial, but rather the government’s health orders instead. Here, they will determine whether or not the government violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (contained in The Canadian Constitution).
This would essentially force the provincial government to provide scientific evidence in open court that justifies their health orders and lockdowns, where up to this point they have just been deciding by divine fiat without providing the data.
In particular, they expect to be cross-examining the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, who for the first time since the pandemic began, will be forced to answer some tough questions under oath. This will surely be a change for her, as so far up this point all the questions asked to her over the last 12 months have been softballs lobbed by a pro-lockdown media in a very friendly setting. No longer.
While the win in Alberta would not be binding across any other province, it would be persuasive and have other courts take notice, along with emboldening other pastors to take similar stands and force the issue.
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