I'm at court this morning for the start of GraceLife Church Pastor James Coates' trial for flouting COVID restrictions. Tweets to follow. edmontonjournal.com/news/local-new…
You can tune in here but it's audio only and capped at 1,000 people. albertacourts.ca/pc/resources/a…
James Kitchen, the JCCF lawyer, is not wearing a mask, claiming he's "medically exempt." The judge is dealing with this now. Says he can provide a doctor's note.
It appears the judge is not going to order him to wear a mask.
I should be clear, Kitchen is Coates' lawyer.
The Crown's first witness is Janine Hanrahan, the public health inspector who did many of the GraceLife inspections.
FTR Coates' other lawyer is Leighton Grey
Grey asks Hanrahan if she's aware of COVID cases at GL since July. He says GraceLife kept their own records, which he claims "indicate up until the time the church was closed they had 57 consecutive weeks of no cases."
Earlier the Crown brought out an exchange Hanrahan overheard between Coates and an RCMP officer during an inspection in December, in which she alleges Coates said “Dr. Deena Hinshaw is a dictator and the premier is hiding behind her.”
Hanrahan is done. That's it for the Crown's case. Crown was going to call two RCMP officers so defence could cross examine them, but they've basically admitted the offence so they don't need to be called. Seems we're getting into Charter stuff now.
I think what's happening now is the defence wants to call evidence, while Crown wants to go to the Charter stuff and deal with defence evidence later.
We're back after a short break. Judge is clarifying something about how we're going to proceed re: defence evidence and the Charter issues. Defence is claiming Coates' rights under Sections 2c, 7, 9 and 11e were violated.
Judge has dismissed a Crown application to (I think) go straight to the charter arguments.
Here's my story from this morning's proceedings. We're about to resume. edmontonjournal.com/news/local-new…
The defence's first witness is Pastor Coates. (Interestingly, he chooses to affirm, rather than swear an oath.)
Coates is going over his bio. He was born in Toronto, grew up in Scarborough. Went to UWO for kinesiology. Said he came to Christ at age 23. Said his life was "unravelling morally" and that he was partying a lot. Took a course after uni, ended up going to seminary.
Coates said the church, then known as Grace Reformed Baptist Church, wanted a graduate from Master's Seminary in L.A. and that's how he was selected. He's been lead pastor 11 years. More background on this: edmontonjournal.com/news/local-new…
GraceLife has apparently been in that location in Parkland County since 2016 or 2017. Before that it was bouncing around Edmonton a bit. As for their theology: “We believe the Bible is true and we believe it can be understood and it can be rightly interpreted.”
Coates says the church abided by the initial public health restrictions last spring. He says by the time the Alberta gov. lifted its first restrictions they had come to believe COVID wasn't that big a deal. Says Jason Kenney referred to COVID as flu in the legislature six times.
Coates is repeatedly tugging on his mask in the witness box. Three times he's complained it's difficult to speak with. Says when he goes out to dinner he wishes servers wouldn't wear masks because he can't see their faces.
*Coates clarified this, that number should be 37, fwiw.
Coates: “We never wanted this public position that we’ve been given. It came to us. We’d happily resign all of it to be able to worship quietly on Sundays without all this attention.”
Coates has referred to COVID as a "so-called pandemic" at least twice. He says the "real threat is AHS and their public health orders."
Re: his 35 days in the Edmonton Remand Centre, Coates says “I didn’t know if I’d ever get out to be honest with you.” Says he lost about ten pounds — notes he's gluten free and food was an issue.
Coates acknowledging GraceLife has continued to hold services since their building was closed. "People are continuing to come as we travel around here and there.”
Coates is wrapping up, says the church has been "mistreated" by the media. “A lot of vitriol from some in the public," he says. Says some church members have had issues with their employers.
Coates' is asked about his sources of information. Cites the Barrington Declaration as well as news sources “anywhere aside from the mainstream media." Says “I don’t believe that COVID-19 poses a serious health risk to our people.” Calls Canada an “international disgrace.”
We're now onto cross examination.
The Crown asks Coates about his use of the phrase "so-called pandemic." He says the definition of a pandemic changed "ten years ago" and that COVID would not qualify as a pandemic then (this is also on GL's website.) Eventually he agrees "I would say that this is not a pandemic.”
Coates says he's been tested for COVID twice. First was the week before the pandemic hit, when he came back from a conference in LA and was quite ill. Says he got a negative but he doesn't believe PCR tests are "credible." Said he might have been sick with COVID then.
Interesting exchange: crown says the publicity has brought many more people to GraceLife. Coates agrees. Says at one point they reached fire code capacity and had to turn people away. Coates says they’re not thrilled about this and it brings its own challenges.
Coates: “I would happily return to pre-COVID-19 life.”

Crown: “I think we all would.”

Coates: “Amen.”
We’re wrapping for the day, resuming 9:30 tomorrow.

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