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Pedersen’s Public Health Act tickets over again until Dec. 1

Judge says this “file needs a roadmap” to begin working toward resolution
WES - November 2021 benita-pedersen
Benita Pedersen will be back in Westlock Provincial Court Dec. 1 to deal with the 10 Public Health Act tickets she faces after organizing anti-COVID-19 measures rallies earlier this year.

WESTLOCK – The Westlock DJ facing 10 Public Health Act tickets for organizing anti-COVID-19 measures rallies across northern Alberta earlier in 2021 will be back in court next month following the fifth adjournment of the combined case against her and eighth since her first ticket appeared on the docket.

In Westlock Provincial Court Nov. 3, Judge Vaughn Myers set the case over to Dec. 1 as specialized prosecutions office prosecutor Craig Kallal told court he’s been unable to schedule a pre-trial conference with Judge Charles Donald Gardner and the defendant, Benita Pedersen — on Sept. 8 Kallal said if the case 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.”

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.

Kallal previously told court that Pedersen is requesting the Crown make some information available that she claims is first-party disclosure, while he contends it’s third party — the process to determine whether the Crown needs to provide it is known as an O'Connor application. Pedersen, who initially told Judge Myers that she thought it might not be “appropriate” to go to a pre-trial conference, restated that she still hasn’t received full disclosure and specifically 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.”

Judge Myers clarified that as it was docket day, he was unwilling to hear any O’Connor arguments and urged Pedersen and Kallal to work on getting a pre-trial conference date, which would handle issues surrounding that application. Judge Myers told both he expects an update on the status of the pre-trial conference by Dec. 1.

“When you say Ms. Pedersen that it may be too soon to go a pre-trial conference, I’m going to tell you right now that it’s never too soon to go to a pre-trial conference because what you can do at a pre-trial conference is you can explain all of things that you are trying to explain to me now in a relaxed atmosphere,” said Judge Myers. “The pre-trial is not something you should fear. The pre-trial conference is something you should accept with open arms as that will give us a roadmap to this case. This file needs a roadmap as this is the fifth appearance and not much has happened.”

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 most recently seen on TV and social media heckling healthcare workers during a September 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.”

At her October court appearance, Pedersen claimed her motivation for the past rallies was “love” and has previously stated on social media she has “zero intention of paying any of these (fines)” and contends that she hasn’t broken any laws.

“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,” Pedersen told Judge Rosanna Saccomani 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.”

George Blais,

George Blais

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