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Cafe owner acquitted of charges he violated Alberta health orders during COVID pandemic


The owner of a central Alberta cafe accused of defying public health orders during the COVID-19 pandemic has been acquitted on all charges.

Christopher Scott, owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror, Alta., was cleared in a Red Deer court Monday morning of all nine charges against him under the Public Health Act.

Crown prosecutors had alleged Scott repeatedly ignored public health and closure orders between January to April 2021 by serving customers in-person and holding public gatherings at the cafe in the Lacombe County hamlet about 50 kilometres northeast of Red Deer and 125 kilometres south of Edmonton.

Scott's lawyer Chad Williamson said outside the courthouse that the court found the health orders unreasonable because they appeared to come from provincial cabinet ministers instead of the chief medical officer of health.

"Whenever you've got government-administrated bodies, it's important that they've got the right legal advice to exercise their powers lawfully, and that was not done in this case," Williamson told media. "That's not to say it was necessarily malicious. This really is a technicality. The CMOH orders that came down were improper. The decision was supposed to have come from the chief medical officer. The court found predominantly the main decision maker was cabinet, and that runs contrary to the power that's conferred upon them through the legislation."

The previous week, the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service confirmed to CTV News Edmonton it had concluded there "is no longer a reasonable likelihood of conviction" in Scott's case and was going to invite an acquittal following the Ingram case. 

In the Ingram decision, which was released at the end of July, a justice found Alberta's cabinet and cabinet committees, rather than the chief medical officer of health, were the "final decision makers" of some public health orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Williamson said he expects cases similar to Scott's, such as that against GraceLife Church and its pastor James Coates, will also result in acquittals.

"If the associate chief justice of this province isn't going to make sure the rules being put on us are within the law, I would say that's something Albertans should pay attention to, regardless of what side of this conversation you're on," Scott said. Top Stories

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