City challenges Calgary preacher’s acquittal

CALGARY – The City of Calgary is appealing a court decision that acquitted a street preacher of five bylaw charges and called two civic bylaws overly broad.

City solicitor Paul Tolley said the city believes the 91-page provincial court judgment, released earlier this month, has "both errors in fact and errors in law."

An appeal to the Court of Queen’s Bench will be filed by the Jan. 6 deadline, he said.

Art Pawlowski, who preaches in public while feeding the homeless, has been in a battle with the city over the use of a loudspeaker to spread his message and for placing material on streets, including boxes of food, a large wooden cross and speakers.

On Monday, he called the city’s decision "very unfortunate.

"The city, instead of focusing (on helping the homeless) are wasting taxpayer money," Pawlowski said. "We are not the city’s enemies. The city continues to fight us."

In a Dec. 7 written decision, provincial court Judge Allan Fradsham said while there is "little dispute that the accused engaged in most of the impugned behaviours," he also heard arguments for Pawlowski made under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Tolley said the city believes "the charter principles have not been factually applied and extend too far."

There is also concern, he added, that the streets bylaw and the parks and pathways bylaw, under which Pawlowski was charged and which have been in place for years, were called overly broad and vague in the judgment.

As well, because the charter applies across the country, the decision could have an impact on other bylaws in other cities, Tolley said.

Pawlowski, who preaches in front of Old City Hall and in a park near the drop-in centre, has argued he needs the loudspeaker to be heard by drug dealers, prostitutes and others. The city has said the amplified voice generated complaints, including from residents across the river.

Tolley said the city is concerned about Fradsham’s comment that the actions of some city officials "fall precariously close to being excessive and . . . an abuse of power."

"We don’t believe they have," he added.

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