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Pedersen’s Public Health Act tickets adjourned until Nov. 3

Freedom rally organizer, who still faces 10 PHA tickets valued at $12,000, says she was motivated by “love”
WES Rally fine IMG_9437
Benita Pedersen, pictured receiving a ticket at one of the Westlock “freedom rallies” she organized earlier this year, is slated to be back in Westlock Provincial Court Nov. 3 to deal with 10 Public Health Act tickets as her case was adjourned for a seventh time Oct. 13.

WESTLOCK – The Westlock DJ facing 10 Public Health Act tickets for organizing a series of anti-COVID measures rallies across northern Alberta earlier this year that she says were motivated by “love”, will be back in court next month when it’s expected the Crown will have a pre-trial conference date.

In Westlock Provincial Court Oct. 13, Judge Rosanna Saccomani, appearing via Webex from St. Albert Provincial Court, agreed to set the matter over to Nov. 3 as specialized prosecutions office prosecutor Craig Kallal said he’s been unable to schedule a pre-trial conference — Wednesday’s adjournment was the seventh.

Pedersen, who’s not represented by a lawyer, 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.

A pre-trial conference is normally held between lawyers and a judge on cases that will last more than a day — on Sept. 8 Kallal said if this goes to trial he’s expecting it to last eight days as, “The police recorded all these rallies so there’s just a huge amount of evidence.”

“At this time all individuals who have been charged with offences similar to yours must have a pre-trial conference with a judge,” Judge Saccomani told Pedersen. “And the purpose of the pre-trial conference is to try and decide … sometimes it’s resolution. And sometimes it’s to decide how efficiently it can be scheduled for trial.”

Pedersen told the judge she still hasn’t received full disclosure and wants the results of an investigation by Alberta Chief Medical Officer Deena Hinshaw, “that confirmed COVID-19 was present in Alberta and constituted a public health emergency.” At the Sept. 8 court appearance Kallal told the Judge Brian Fraser that Pedersen was requesting the Crown make some information available that she says is first-party disclosure, while he contends it’s third party.

“I’m seeking the results of that investigation and in my interactions with Mr. Kallal he has expressed resistance to giving me the information I seek,” said Pedersen, before she was cut off by Judge Saccomani who replied, “I invite you to raise this issue with Judge (Charles Donald) Gardner in the pre-trial conference and then he’ll give you both direction.”

Pedersen, who made her five-minute court appearance over the phone, also took the opportunity to state her motivation for the past rallies was “love.” Pedersen has previously stated on social media she has “zero intention of paying any of these (fines)” and claims she hasn’t broken any laws.

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 has continued to host “freedom rallies” and “church in the park” events and was most recently seen on TV and social media heckling healthcare workers during a rally at an Edmonton-area hospital. During an April 8 webcast dubbed The Thursday Fastball With Crusty Canuck, Pedersen claimed she was unafraid of the authorities and said, “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.”

“I haven’t had a chance yet to speak to the charges against me, but I just want to mention to you and in general to all persons interested that the activities I was involved in were motivated by love,” said Pedersen at her Oct. 13 court appearance. “I love people and I love my fellow man. I just want people to understand that. It’s not meant to cause any harm and from what I can tell no harm was caused by the activities I was involved in.”

Replied Judge Saccomani: “You, as every other person who comes before the court (on a docket day), doesn’t really speak … you won’t speak to the these matters until you have your day in court.”

George Blais,

George Blais

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