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There is a lot of buzz on the Internet regarding our arrest outside the mayor’s office at Calgary’s old City Hall, and about who’s problem this matter is anyway (Mayor Nenshi or Mayor Bronconnier)? Some have suggested that the current mayor has nothing to do with the matter of Street Church vs the City, but that this matter is really just the remaining remnants of a previous battle between the street preacher, Artur Pawlowski, and the former mayor Dave Bronconnier.
Did the battle start with Bronconnier? Yes. But since Calgary’s new mayor took over, Street Church has made several attempts to meet with the mayor to discuss the ongoing matter with him and to give the current mayor an opportunity to review the matter first hand, in order that all the mistakes of the previous administration could be put behind us and that the City and Street Church team up for the benefit of Calgary’s homeless population, moving peacefully and co-operatively forward along side one another (bare in mind that Street Church Ministries prepares over 200,000 meals per year and delivers them to the most vulerable segment of Calgary’s population, its homeless citizens)
Please review one of the letters that was sent to the mayor requesting a meeting to discuss the ongoing persecution of Street Church which can be found here.
To this day, Street Church still awaits a meeting with the mayor. Another aspect of confusion comes into this matter relating to the use of amplification. The media continues to incorrectly report that the issues that the City has had with the Street Church mininstry is completely to do with illegal amplification. Yet, to this day, Street Church has never been charged or convicted of being too loud, even though bylaw officers came with their noise meters to test for sound level breaches, they were never able to find any merit in the idea that Street Church has exceeded noise level restrictions found in the city bylaws or park usage rules. Also, Street Church has never been convicted of disturbing the peace.
A number of judges, including the appeal judge in the most recent court case, relating to Street Church versus the City of Calgary, all agreed that many of the bylaws used to prosecute Street Church were unconstitutional. Although there is a balance that a city must try to maintain, between the rights of all citizens, the bylaws that the City created were too vague and could be widely interpreted and applied by bylaw and police officers on the scene. For example, giving a half sandwich to a starving child would, under the City of Calgary’s bylaws, make you a criminal worthy of fines and if you would continue to do such a horrible thing, the result could be an arrest and court appearance to prove your innocense.
Also, due to the bylaw relating to gathering a crowd in a park, if you were to gather with your family and friends for a picnic, you could be fined for gathering a crowd, if you did not first obtain a permit to ‘gather’.
These are merely a couple of examples of bylaws that the City of Calgary uses to try to shut people up they don’t like, including in this case Calgary’s street preacher Artur Pawlowski.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms clearly states the following are Guaranteed Fundamental Freedoms in Canada as seen here (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/eng/charter/page-1.html#l_I:s_1):
1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association
These freedoms are foundational to our democracy. In Canada, the Charter is a master law which other lower laws, such as bylaws, are subject to. When it comes to public life, the mere dislike of other people’s opinions does not give you the right to deny them their guaranteed fundamental freedoms, not through law making nor application of the law by law enforcement personnel.
Back to the matter of who’s fight this is now. The truth is that the fight initially started, under the Bronconnier administration relating to ‘illegally’ gathering in a park and ‘illegally’ giving away free goods and services in a park.
Here is the first media coverage of the problems with the City when the City decided to go from positive to negative in relation to their dealings with Street Church in 2005 – http://streetchurch.ca/index.php/2005082541/News/Media/park-preacher.html
Our current mayor, Naheed Nenshi, by refusing to meet with Street Church, for over a year, by not calling off the City law department and by allowing both the City’s Corporate Security and the police department to continue to persecute this group of Christians, made this an issue which directly relates not only to the past administration but also to himself.
If this were the only reason, perhaps one might say, that this is not enough to connect Nenshi with the current matters that have happened under his administration, including the recent arrest of six Christian people including Artur Pawlowski and five others at Calgary’s City Hall. By this action, which was clearly not unbiased, Mayor Naheed Nenshi, showed not only that he fully supports what has been happening in the past, but that he is picking up and continuing these strategies in an effort to silence the voice of these Calgarian citizens.
The public should be aware that after the arrests, Street Church sent an e-mail requesting a response from the mayor of why I, Artur Pawlowski and four other Christians were arrested for waiting in the lobby of the old City Hall to talk to him regarding our treatment in the Atrium of Calgary’s new City Hall building. Yes, you read correctly, we were not arrested because we refused to leave the Atrium. All thirty of us who came to peacefully gather in the Atrium were peacefully escorted by the police out of the new City Hall building. Most did not receive no trespass notices, but some did, yet all were escorted out. So to be clear, It was not until we went to talk to the mayor about the matter that the arrests took place. What’s really ironic about our place of arrest is that it was outside the mayor’s office, right beside the sign which states, ‘cutting the red tape the mayor wants to hear from you.’ (I guess ‘from you’ does not refer to Street Church, CCC or perhaps other Calgarians who want to question the tactics of the current administration)
By the way, to this day, Street Church has not received the courtesy of a personal reply to their e-mail requesting the mayor’s clarification on the issue (later on in this article I will reference the public e-mail that the mayor sent to third parties who contacted the mayor complaining about our arrest, but Street Church never received his reply). I have also, personally, sent e-mails to the mayor on these and other issues and have not received a reply.
It was upon being kicked out of Calgary’s ‘living room’, as Mayor Nenshi calls it, that we went to discuss the matter with him personally. We did not re-enter the Atrium, nor the new City Hall building. We all felt that the acts of Corporate Security and the police were accessive and were not in alignment with the new found tolerance of the City of Calgary to democratic freedoms as demonstrated with the multi-month incident with Occupy Calgary. Occupy Calgary was extended great and wide birth even to the point of destroying city property and lighting unauthorized fires in the park along with deficating in the park. Although we wouldn’t desire these allowances, they were extended and yet they were clearly unlawful.
Occupy Calgary gave away free goods and services, set up tables, gathered crowds and stayed there in tents they errected, fixed signs and banners and flags to trees and posts, distributed pamphlets, had public debates and press conferences, at times using amplification, and all without permits. These activities were allowed to continue for weeks upon weeks and Mayor Nenshi continued to state that the city could not act for fear of stepping on the Occupiers rights. When the mayor, along with the other city councellors finally decided it was time to move the occupiers out, they did so by first getting permission from the courts to do so, through an injunction hearing. That’s when they came in with the police to remove the tents of the Occupiers. The mayor then made it very clear, publicly, that the Occupiers were still allowed to protest, even at City Hall.
This is completely unlike the incident that happened between ourselves and the City. Artur Pawlowski had a meeting with Owen Key, the head of Corporate Security, who inicated that he had already had a meeting with Mayor Naheed Nenshi and that the mayor was already aware of the situation and he was therefor very confident to take action against us in the form of removing us from the Atrium. We found this hard to believe since the mayor repeately stated in the news the importance of protecting the rights of all citizens and he had on the public record indicated that the Atrium and Olympic Plaza needs to be made available to all citizens regardless of whether or not one likes those people or their views.
In the recent reply that came from Nenshi’s office, it was not stated that Artur Pawlowski had tried to negotiate with Owen Key the head of Corporate Security, for over a month, for the right to use the Atrium for occasional peaceful gatherings or a room to gather and pray for the City and its administration. The very purpose of meeting with and speaking with Owen Key, on a number of occasions, was to negotiate usage of the Atrium with advanced notice and to ensure that there was understanding and agreement between both parties. This differs greatly from the Occupy Calgary approach, in which, they just showed up and carried out a Tibetan religious service in the Atrium, without permits or prior permission, without being bothered by corporate security or the police.
Also, the mayor’s reply did not state that Artur Pawlowski refused to sign the application for Atrium use that was given, in its current form, as the application requires that a person agree to the usage rules pertaining to the Atrium, which are riddled with direct conflicts with the Charter and with the nature of the event that would be carried out (namely a religious event which the usage rules prohibit).
Here are the main problems with the usage rules as they pertain to the nature of the gathering Street Church was holding (direct quotes from the usage terms for the atrium):
The following events or activities are not allowed in the “space”:
Religious activities during business hours
Political demonstration or any activity that is considered political
Campaigning or soliciting of any kind [including giving out pamphlets or other documentation]
RESPONSIBILITY OF APPLICANT
The applicant must maintain a commercial general liability insurance policy in the amount of not less than Two Million Dollars ($2,000,000) inclusive limit for any one occurrence and such insurance policy shall include:
The City of Calgary as an additional insured
A cross liability clause; and
Products and completed operations coverage.
Marketing / Signage
All signage and banners must be approved by the City Clerk’s Office. The City reserves the right to remove any signage deemed inappropriate.
No hand-written signs permitted.
Applicant can only apply for the use of the “space” once per year.
So, the City wants all citizens to fill in their unconstitutional application which requires them to agree to the terms laid out in the External Users Guidelines. The problem is that those ‘guidelines’ prohibit them from doing the very activities they are desiring to do. What does this mean? It means that if Street Church filled in the forms and signed off on it and then proceeded to hold the service they were desiring to hold, they would in fact be breaching the agreement that they signed, which is a legal contract. Not to mention the fact that the behaviours the usage rules prohibit are protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, especially on public property, which the municipal buildings are. This is not just my opinion, but has been demonstrated by Canada’s courts over and over again. Here is an example of a ruling from the Canada’s highest court, the Supreme Court of Canada –
“If Members of the public had no right whatsoever to distribute leaflets or engage in other expressive activity on government-owned property…then there would be little if any opportunity to exercise their rights of freedom of expression.“ [defending the right to post on public utility poles and hand out leaflets in public government-owned buildings]
~ Supreme Court of Canada
The Mayor’s office, in their reply to those who complained to the mayor about our arrest, made several incorrect statements which may lead the public to believe we were wrong in our dealings with City Hall. I will address them one by one (The Mayor’s responses are italicized and my answers are below):
This comment is not correct, and we will demonstrate that as we deal with each of his other comments one by one.
Mayor Nenshi did not call in the police, nor a private security team, to evict Mr. Pawlowski from City Hall. City security discovered that Mr. Pawlowski had refused to submit the necessary paperwork to use the City Hall Atrium in the manner he wished. The decision to call the Police was made by the City’s security staff when Mr. Pawlowski refused to leave the Atrium following this discovery.
Before the church service, we were told by Owen Key head of Corporate Security that he had a meeting with the mayor discussing our intention to return to City Hall, to exercise our democratic freedoms, and Mr. Key told us that they spoke of how to handle the matter. So the mayor definitely was not only aware of the matter but was also involved in the decision making process of how we were to be dealt with. As indicated before, Street Church and Owen Key were in negotiations over paperwork relating to Street Church’s desire to exercise their freedoms. This was not some kind of dramatic revelation of a sudden action by a militant group, no, it was something that was previously discussed with City Hall and City Hall knew of their intentions well in advance.
This procedure is the same for all groups, whether they are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or anything else.
Clearly this procedure is not the same for everyone. Occupiers were allowed free reign for weeks. They were allowed to carry out a Tibetan religious ceremony in atrium and for several days occupied the area right outside the council chambers. Also, on one occasion, we are aware of, they took their vocal protest right inside the council chambers and were yelling and chanting whilst in there. Yet, though they had no signed permits, they had no problems with Corporate Security, no tickets and no arrests. Also, at the time the occupiers were holding their gatherings/protests in the Atrium, Artur Pawlowski questioned Owen Key as to whether Corporate Security were going to do anything about the occupiers and he said no. Is this the same tactics, the same approach, the same application of policy that the City and the mayor used only weeks later with Street Church?
Violating city bylaws is nothing new for Mr. Pawlowski, as he has been charged with more than 70 violations over the past six years, most of which were a result of citizen complaints about his use of amplification equipment in public spaces.
Firstly, this response is clearly trying to continue to paint Artur Pawlowski as a lawbreaker and a trouble maker even though he has been repeately vindicated by the courts, time after time. The mayor is correct, though, in pointing out that Artur Pawlowski has had to defend his democratic freedoms on almost countless occasions. To this day, he has never been criminally convicted and even though he has received over a hundred summons and stood countless times before the courts with a total of nine arrests, the only penalty he had to pay was a symbolic $1 fine (for using an electrical cord in a park, which the judge used as slap the City for their audacious behaviour. The City also indicated in this statement that the violations over the past six years ‘most of which were a result of citizen complaints about his use of amplification equipment in public spaces’, which is also not true. Ninety-five percent of the fines and summons had nothing to do with amplification whatsoever; most of the tickets were things like, giving away free goods and services, placing materials on the ground, gathering a crowd, erecting signs, stunting (for being a distraction to vehicles passing by), operating a barbecue in a park, etc… The fact that the Mayor’s office would make such a statement indicates that the mayor is either completely incompitant, making public replies without checking his facts, or intentionally misleading the public. This civil servant should be embarassed to imply, in communications with the public, that a citizen should have to continue to defend himself over and over in the courts, even though the courts have repeatedly indicated that the city has abused its power and has created and applied unconstitutional laws that have infringed on the charter rights of that citizen.
In the last court judgement on this matter, the courts upheld The City’s right to enforce its bylaws, a decision Mr. Pawlowski is appealing.
This is once again a misleading statement. In his decision, the judge ruled that seventy five percent of the bylaws presented before him were unconstitutional. He did uphold the right for the City to exercise their bylaws when it comes to amplification limits. That’s all.
Mayor Nenshi has said that the Street Church is welcome to use the Atrium for their gatherings, provided they follow the proper process.
This is completely inacurate. As we stated before, Street Church asked for meetings with the mayor on multiple occasions, and so did I. They tried negotiating the use of the Atrium for over a month and indicated their concerns with the application process, especially as pertaining to the usage rules. Suggesting that Street Church could use the Atrium if they would follow proper procedure is rediculous. Even in an interview with Owen Key, the media asked if Mr. Key believed that Street Church would be granted permission if they followed proper procedure, and Mr. Key indicated that he couldn’t say that they would be granted that permission.
The City of Calgary’s approach to the Occupy Calgary protest was to obtain a municipal injunction against the protest to have it evicted from Olympic Plaza.
Firstly, the injunction acquired by the City had nothing to do with Occupiers being inside of the Atrium, but had everything to do with the Occupy Calgary tents at Olympic Plaza. Mr. Mayor indicated in the media a number of times that he welcomes Occupiers to protest at City Hall during working hours. Artur Pawlowski was at the, Occupy Calgary versus the City of Calgary, injunction hearing and heard all of the requests being made by the City and there was no mention of the Atrium or City Hall.
So again, Occupiers were welcomed, yet Street Church and CCC are not welcome. Occupiers were granted every freedom, including being allowed to cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage to Olympic Plaza, such as the destruction of the public bathrooms in the park, without any reprocutions, or harassment.
So whether or not the different treatment is related to the mayor’s religious or ideological beliefs, the extreme treatment of Street Church in comparison to the overly lenient treatment of Occupy Calgary begs many questions.
It’s also worth mentioning that the mayor’s office is not the only one misinforming the public. Add to the mix, the reply by the Calgary Police Department, who immediately after our arrest gave the following public statement:
We were called by the City of Calgary’s Corporate Security department, in response to a group who were creating a disturbance. Those causing the disruption had already been served a trespass notice by the agent for the property and refused to leave. The Criminal Code of Canada provides the authority for a owner of a property to remove a trespasser and that’s why CPS was called to do. The matter is now before the courts and we cannot discuss it further.
In this short paragraph there are three direct lies and one misleading statement.
I will address each comment. To start with, Street Church had notified the public and the media that they would be holding a service in the Atrium on the day in question during the lunch hour in honor of our savior, Jesus Christ, during the Christmas season. City Hall also received this notification.
To be clear, CPS was not called in after the fact in response to us causing a disturbance at all. When we arrived at City Hall Corporate security was already there waiting for us with the police officers. In fact, a Street Church volunteer was on site about an hour earlier and saw City Hall Corporate Security meeting with the officers that later escorted us from the Atrium. They were making their plans before we even arrived.
Also, at this point we had not received no trespass notices from Corporate Security. That didn’t happen until Artur Pawlowski had read from the Bible out loud and shared a short sermon to his listeners in the Atrium (once again without amplification). That is what Mr. Pawlowski did to receive his trespass notice. As for me, I didn’t receive a trespass notice until I was deeply bothered by the abuse of the Charter that was happening before my very eyes and walked over to the base of the stairs outside the Council Chambers and started reading Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Prior to this I had never been given either a warning from Corporate Security, nor a no trespass order (in fact, I have never in my life been given a no trespass order, until I read Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms in my city’s municipal building and by the way, I have also never been arrested before until I went to speak to my mayor about this reprehensible behaviour).
Could someone please explain what was illegal about doing such a thing? The reason why I ask the question to you, is because when I asked the officers, they could not or would not tell me the answer. They merely indicated that I was trespassing. What? I was trespassing in my City Hall, a public building? That’s the reason I was given a no trespass order? That’s why I wanted to talk to the mayor, which I was arrested for doing. Once again, when I asked the officers why I was being arrested, they told me that I was trespassing. I asked them for the reason they were arrresting me for trespassing, specifically what law or bylaw I had broken and they, without wanting me to look at them, restated again and again that I was trespassing. This was shameful behaviour and a disgrace to our country and our democracy. So to sumarize, I was given a no trespass order, not for breaking any laws or bylaws, but because I was not wanted there, in a public building that I pay taxes to be in and use for appropriate reasons.
The next statement is that of ownership of the Atrium. Who owns the building? It is a public building, paid for by the public, designed for public interactions and information exchanges and repeatedly protected against charter infractions by various levels of courts throughout our country and other democratic nations around the world and throughout history. To put it bluntly, the civil servants are merely caretakers of your and my civic building. They are not the owners.
And as for the last statement about this matter being before the courts which disables the CPS from discussing the matter further. In part this is true, tickets have been issued and until we plead guilty or not guilty and before the court hears the case, the fines are a matter of the courts to decide (whether or not the fines are legitimate). As for the matter of the arrests and whether people can question the CPS on why they arrested people for inquiring of the mayor why they were given trespass orders for reading from the Bible and the Charter of Rights and freedoms, that is a matter that the CPS can and should be made to answer questions about. They are absolutely not bound by law to be silent about the reasons for their actions, especially given their oath to serve and protect our City’s citizens. But saying that the matter is before the courts is an excuse that they like to use when they don’t want to be accountable for their wrongful acts.
What seems certain with this whole matter and what clearly distinguishes Street Church from Occupy Calgary, and other groups that are given allowances and leniency that Street Church is not allowed to enjoy, is that the problem is with the message that is being delivered. If it’s ‘eat the rich’, it’s good, if it’s the message of hope through repentance and acceptance of Jesus Christ, it’s damnable.
So here are some questions I have for everyone.
Why is the office of the mayor obviously lying to people about what truly happened?
Why did the police department lie to the public just hours after our arrest about what took place?
Why is Calgary City Hall’s Corporate Security lying about Street Church’s previous discussions and negotiations with them regarding the Atrium usage?
Why is the mayor stating, what is clearly a lie, that Street Church is being treated like every body else, when anyone with their eyes open can clearly see the bias applied to Street Church, especially with the City’s immediately recent dealings with Occupy Calgary?
When will the City of Calgary stop persecuting Street Church, stop spreading lies about them to the public and admit that they have abused their power and make recompense for their persecutions?
And the most important question I have is, if they acted righteously and lawfully then why the lies?
To the City of Calgary, to the CPS, to Calgary’s City Hall’s Corporate Security, and to our mayor and all others involved in this ongoing persecution repent for your wrong deeds…
“But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23 )
More details on the arrest and pictures are here: http://streetchurch.ca/index.php/20111220803/News/Journals/Six-arrested-at-Christmas.html