Jailed pastor blasts Canadian politician for claiming 'wings clipped' regarding political prisoners

Artur Pawlowski
Artur Pawlowski | Courtesy of Artur Pawlowski

A Canadian pastor who was jailed after keeping his church open in defiance of COVID-19 lockdown mandates pushed back against Alberta Premier Danielle Smith's recent assertion that she's had "her wings clipped" regarding alleged political prisoners in her province.

Pastor Artur Pawlowski, who was arrested multiple times during the pandemic, told The Christian Post that he found elements of Smith's interview last week with conservative political commentator Tucker Carlson "sickening."

'I had my wings clipped'

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Carlson delivered two speeches to packed audiences in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta, last Wednesday, during which he railed against Canadian political leaders.

The former Fox News host suggested many of Canada's politicians have shown contempt for their own people by punishing political protesters, decriminalizing hard drugs, allowing government-funded euthanasia, legally protecting trans surgeries for minors and allowing an unprecedented surge of immigration.

Carlson also urged his listeners to beware of how Canadian Christians have been treated by state authorities who he claimed are pushing "hard-edge fascism" under the guise of "public safety."

After his speech in Calgary, Carlson sat down with Smith, who suggested she was powerless to intervene in the case of the "Coutts Four," whom Carlson implied were arrested for political reasons.

The "Coutts Four" — lineman Jerry Morin, landscaper Chris Carbert, electrician Chris Lysak and gravel truck operator Anthony Olienick — were arrested at the trucker blockade in Coutts, Alberta, in February 2022. They have since been in a provincial remand center awaiting trial and have been denied bail after being accused of attempting to overthrow the government.

The men were used as partial justification for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to clamp down on trucker protesters by invoking the Emergencies Act, which Smith noted in her talk with Carlson was ruled by a federal court last month to have been illegal.

When Carlson suggested Smith could at least visit the jailed men to send a message, she referenced a phone call she had with Pawlowski last year, during which she expressed sympathy for his case and promised to discuss it with justice ministers. The phone call stoked backlash when a recording of it leaked to the press, prompting allegations that Smith was overstepping her bounds as premier by interfering with Crown prosecution.

"I'm not proud of our country for having frozen bank accounts, I'm not proud of our country for having jailed pastors, and I'm not proud of our country for the fact that we still have people languishing in jail for going on two years," Smith told Carlson.

"What I have learned is that all I can say is the Crown operates independently, prosecutors have to make sure that they have a reasonable likelihood of conviction, and I guess they will have to assess whether or not that is the case now with the judgment that came down [regarding the Emergencies Act]."

"I must tell you, it's part of the journey we've all gone on in the last year to realize just how much limitation there is," she said, adding, "I truly wish I could do more, but I had my wings clipped in the last year."

'Not true'

Pawlowski, who told CP he was in Washington, D.C., this week to discuss the persecuted church with lawmakers, said Smith's implication that she's powerless is "not true" and that she failed to keep the promises on which she was elected.

Smith "was elected solely on the promises that there will be an amnesty bill, that there will be protection for the unvaccinated, that people will be restored if they lost jobs or were fired," Pawlowski said. "Nothing happened on all of those points. Yes, people can go back to work, but there's been no real compensation, no restitution, nothing."

Smith, who was sworn in as Alberta premier on Oct. 11, 2022, was the first Canadian politician to apologize for the treatment of unvaccinated people in the country. The Canadian government mandated vaccinations in federally regulated workplaces, issued travel restrictions, shut down businesses for months and arrested citizens such as Pawlowski who violated the lockdowns.

Pawlowski, who said he first met Smith years ago when they were both in Alberta's Wildrose political party, said she also campaigned on "going to the pastors and apologizing for what the government did to us." During their leaked 2023 phone call, he urged her to meet with them publicly, to which Smith replied by saying she would check with her executive director.

"That never happened," he said. "Then she wins, and one of the first thing she does is backpedal and say she's not going to bring the amnesty bill."

Citing a source with knowledge of the situation, Pawlowski said Smith had a document on her desk that would have dropped all charges against COVID-19 offenders but that she was persuaded to back off.

"I know that because the person who was there told me," Pawlowski said. "I have some powerful enemies, but I have some powerful friends, too."

Pawlowski believes Smith was pressured because her cabinet is staffed with the same ministers who enforced the COVID-19 protocols under the previous administration, including some of whom were caught in 2021 violating their COVID-19 rules during a lavish dinner on the roof of Sky Palace in Edmonton with then-Premier Jason Kenney.

"They told her that if you're going to bring an amnesty bill, if you're going to drop the charges and everything you promised, we will look like idiots and our entire career will be jeopardized," Pawlowski claimed.

Smith's office did not respond to CP's request for comment.

'We were left alone'

Pawlowski himself became a symbol of resistance to government overreach during the pandemic when a video went viral that showed him ejecting public health officials and armed police who were inspecting his church's sanctuary for COVID-19 compliance during services in 2021.

The pastor was subsequently arrested five times, including once in the middle of a busy highway and another time on the tarmac of Calgary International Airport. He spent 51 days in prison after officiating a church service and delivering a sermon to truckers as they blocked the border in Coutts in February 2022.

In September, an Alberta judge found Pawlowski guilty of mischief and breaching a release order related to the 19-minute sermon he gave the truckers, which authorities claim incited the protesters. He credited him for time served and allowed him to go free, though Pawlowski is appealing the guilty verdict and expects to go to court again sometime next fall.

While noting that he "loves" Carlson, Pawlowski said he was "disappointed" by his exchange with Smith, which he likened to "a friendly conversation" and "a nice chit-chat" that he believes should have included tougher questions.

"I'm a big fan of Tucker Carlson," he noted. "I am not a big fan of Danielle Smith because she's a flip-flopping politician. So today, she will be with you, tomorrow she will be with the liberals; depends on the wind. And so far, what I've heard is just good words, a lot of promises, and little action. Very little action."

Pawlowski suggested Smith has exhibited weak leadership during a time when Christians in Canada and Alberta especially are facing increased hostility.

"Yes, maybe the oil will flow a little bit better, but when it comes to moral standards, she marches with homosexuals, she advocates for abortion, and she is not protecting pastors and clergy being attacked over the drag queen story hour. Multiple pastors were arrested for that. Not a word from Danielle Smith."

"So she's not defending our freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of association, nothing," he added. "We were left alone."

Jon Brown is a reporter for The Christian Post. Send news tips to

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