WESTLOCK – Benita Pedersen, the Westlock DJ and self-described “freedom fighter” who faces 10 Public Health Act tickets for organizing anti-COVID-19 measures rallies across northern Alberta throughout 2021, will participate in a second pre-trial conference this month with her next scheduled court date set for early February.
In Westlock Provincial Court Jan. 5, Judge Brian Fraser, presiding via Webex from St. Albert Provincial Court, set Pedersen’s case over to Feb. 2 as specialized prosecutions office prosecutor Craig Kallal said that although one pre-trial conference with himself, Judge Charles Donald Gardner and Pedersen occurred in early December, a second will be needed as, “there are disclosure issues I need to iron out along with some other issues.”
“And we are dealing with the disclosure issues in the case-management conference with Judge Gardner, just so you know,” said Kallal to the Judge Fraser before he granted the adjournment.
Pedersen, who’s not represented by a lawyer and has yet to enter a plea, faces 10 PHA 73(1) tickets for contravening an order of the Medical Officer of Health, specifically in relation to mass gatherings. Each ticket carries a specified fine of $1,000, plus a 20 per cent victim fine surcharge.
Wednesday’s appearance was the seventh adjournment of the combined case against Pedersen and 10th since her first ticket appeared on the court docket early last year.
“I’d like to let the record show that I have requested full disclosure from the Crown per R v Stinchcombe. I have detailed to the Crown a number of items that must at minimum be disclosed for me to make a defence,” Pedersen told Judge Fraser. “To date I have received nothing accept a package of videos of meetings where I was present.”
Previously, Kallal has told court that Pedersen is requesting the Crown make some information available that she claims is first-party disclosure, while he contents it’s third party. First-party disclosure was enshrined in the 1991 Supreme Court of Canada case, R v Stinchcombe, which found that the Crown must provide the defence with all evidence that could possibly be relevant to the case, regardless of whether they plan to call that evidence at trial or not, or whether it helps or hurts the Crown’s case.
Meanwhile, third-party disclosure is a separate disclosure/production scheme for records and information in the hands of third parties — parties that are under no obligation and have no duty to assist the parties in litigation, or to disclose information to them.
Pedersen has said previously in court that she is, “seeking the results of the investigation of Dr. Deena Hinshaw confirming that COVID-19 is present and constitutes a public health emergency.”
While her tickets are for anti-COVID-19 measures rallies in Westlock Feb. 11 and Feb. 25, plus a series of others across the region in Athabasca, Barrhead, Bonnyville and Lac La Biche, Pedersen continued to host “freedom rallies” and “church in the park” events and was seen on TV and social media heckling healthcare workers during a fall rally at an Edmonton-area hospital.
“I have a message to all the authorities right now, I am not afraid of you, I am not scared. I will take another ticket. If you want to put me in jail, go ahead. I’d rather not go to jail, but I’m in a sense prepared to if that’s what this is going to come to,” Pedersen said during an April 8, 2021, webcast. “I’m fighting for all Canadians and I want a complete restoration of the freedoms and rights of all Canadians, that’s my goal. And I’m in this for the next year, the next decade, the next two decades if that’s what it takes. And if that costs me my time, my energy, my money, my freedom, my life, so be it.”
At her October court appearance, Pedersen stated her motivation for the past rallies was “love” and has previously posted on social media she has “zero intention of paying any of these (fines)” and contends that she hasn’t broken any laws.