Alberta prosecutors drop public health violation charges against rodeo host, pastor

Pandemic-era public health charges have been dropped against an Edmonton-area pastor and church, as well as a central Alberta man who hosted a rodeo in protest of COVID-19 restrictions.

GraceLife Church pastor James Coates had been cited for violating public health orders by holding church services without adhering to gathering limits imposed by the provincial government.

But Crown prosecutors say they had to quash the case against Coates and GraceLife after another court decision last month found the Alberta government under then-United Conservative premier Jason Kenney had improperly imposed the orders under the Public Health Act.

In that decision, the court found Dr. Deena Hinshaw, who was the provincial chief medical officer of health at the time, had not made the decision to impose the public health orders, instead leaving it up to cabinet of the Alberta government.

The province's Public Health Act doesn't allow those decisions to be made by politicians, and the Alberta Court of King's Bench ruled them invalid.

The Alberta Crown Prosecution Service says the court's ruling in that case made it unlikely they could get a conviction against Coates for contravening public health orders.

An Alberta provincial court spokesman confirms charges have also been stayed against Ty Northcott, whose family hosted a "No More Lockdowns Rodeo Rally" near Bowden, Alta., in May 2021.

The Canadian Press