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Canadian pastor who was jailed for 51 days after speaking to trucker convoy alleges mistreatment in prison

A Polish-Canadian pastor who was jailed for 51 days after addressing truckers along the U.S.-Canada border in Coutts, Alberta, recounted to Fox News Digital what he alleges was his mistreatment in prison.

Pastor Artur Pawlowski of the Cave of Adullam congregation in Calgary also spoke about his opportunities to minister to his fellow inmates and called on Alberta to do more to rehabilitate prisoners.

‘Hold the line’

On Feb. 7, Pawlowski was arrested for the fifth time since the beginning of the pandemic after he delivered a speech to the trucker convoy, members of which asked him to speak to their group and officiate a church service along Alberta’s border with Montana. The truckers were protesting a Canadian mandate that forces truckers crossing the border with the U.S. to be vaccinated. 

Pawlowski has become a prominent figure since first making international headlines during an Easter service in April 2021, when he threw armed police out of his sanctuary as they attempted to inspect it for infectious-disease compliance.

After continuing to hold church services in defiance of a court order, the pastor endured repeated dramatic arrests, including in the middle of a busy Calgary highway and on the tarmac of the Calgary International Airport.

Pastor Artur Pawlowski is arrested by Calgary Police in the middle of a highway on his way home from church on May 8, 2021.

Pastor Artur Pawlowski is arrested by Calgary Police in the middle of a highway on his way home from church on May 8, 2021.
(Photo courtesy Artur Pawlowski)

During a 20-minute speech to the truckers on Feb. 3, Pawlowski urged them to “hold the line” against government overreach without resorting to violence. He also advised them against their plans to travel to Edmonton, the provincial capital, fearing they would face a government crackdown like that which happened in Ottawa.

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Pawlowski also recounted to them the parallels he sees between the Freedom Convoy and Poland’s Solidarity movement in the 1980s that ultimately led to the liberation of his native country, despite resistance from its communist government.

Before Calgary police apprehended him at his home, Pawlowski was planning to return to the blockade to speak to them again and officiate another church service.

The Crown prosecutor argued in court that Pawlowski issued “an overt threat to violence,” an allegation that was echoed by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. According to video of his remarks, the pastor repeatedly told the truckers not to resort to violence during their protests.

‘The scariest time’

Pawlowski was taken to Calgary Remand Centre, where he alleges he was treated poorly. He said he was placed for a time in a small metal cage, not given water for a whole day, and deprived of both his glasses and a Bible for several days. He claimed he was strip-searched repeatedly, spent many hours in solitary confinement and was made to sleep on cold concrete.

Some prison guards were respectful and even intimated to him their belief that he was a political prisoner, but he said others exhibited cruelty. Protests gathered daily for more than 40 days outside the jail, which he said prompted the prison administration to punish the other inmates on his behalf by placing all of them on lockdown.

Pastor Artur Pawlowski is arrested at his home on Feb. 7, 2022, shortly before was slated to speak to truckers on the U.S.-Canada border.

Pastor Artur Pawlowski is arrested at his home on Feb. 7, 2022, shortly before was slated to speak to truckers on the U.S.-Canada border.
(Courtesy Artur Pawlowski)

“They were punishing the entire prison because of me,” he said. “And then they paraded me in front of the inmates, saying, ‘That’s the guy. You’re being punished because of him. So if you have a chance to do something, that’s the villain, that’s the guy.'”

“And I think that was the scariest time,” he added.

“I was told by inmates, and they’re willing to testify, that they were approached by different people from within the administration — and the guards bribing them with different incentives to beat me up,” he said, recounting how his cell door would sometimes be left open, which terrified him.

Pawlowski said he found favor with his fellow inmates, though, many of whom sought him out for spiritual support after recognizing him as the pastor who keeps getting arrested. His unit, which consisted of approximately 20 other men, began to assemble for Bible study with him. Several, he says, converted to Christianity.

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Shortly before his release on bail, Pawlowski was transferred to Edmonton Remand Centre, which is the largest prison in Canada. There he was placed in the psychiatric ward, where he shared a cell with a paranoid schizophrenic who told him he had killed his own brother with a machete. 

“I said, ‘Oh my God, please. While I’m sleeping, please protect me,'” Pawlowski said.

“But you know, I was able to minister to him and pray for him,” he recounted about his cellmate.

A sign in Times Square calls for Pastor Artur Pawlowski's freedom in New York City, New York.

A sign in Times Square calls for Pastor Artur Pawlowski’s freedom in New York City, New York.
(Courtesy Firebrand Action and Media)

When a worker from Alberta Health Services (AHS) checked on him and asked why he had been placed in the mental ward despite not having been diagnosed with a mental illness, Pawlowski said he had no answer.

He said that only God and the love of his family sustained him during his imprisonment. When he was finally given a Bible and the glasses to read it, he said he began each day with private devotions, which made him realize “my suffering is very little in comparison to what Jesus went through or what other people went through.”

“So that’s what kept me going every day,” he said.

‘No hope’

Pawlowski, who was eventually transferred back to Calgary Remand Centre, said the most common message he received from the inmates he counseled was despair.

“There’s absolutely no hope,” he said of their situation. “There’s no hope in prison. They don’t give you hope. That’s why those boys are turning back to drugs, back to dealing, doing bad things and talking about their crime, because no one is tearing them away from their past lifestyle. So no wonder when they come out, they go to the things they know.

“I told them I don’t want to hear about that. You don’t want to talk about what you have done. You’ve done terrible things. We all have done terrible things. Now let’s see what God wants to do.”

Remembering when one inmate who killed someone had asked him if God could forgive murderers, Pawlowski said he told him, “If you truly repent from what you have done, your wickedness, God will forgive you. But you cannot go back and do bad things.”

“So he was actually crying when I prayed for him,” he said.

During an hour-long video interview with Canadian outlet Rebel News, Pawlowski was driven to tears remembering his fellow inmates and how they asked him not to leave on the day of his release.

Alberta’s correctional facilities have faced allegations of abuse before, according to the Edmonton Journal.

“We need to have a reformation in our penitentiary system, because the justice system is not just,” Pawlowski told Fox News.

Provincial remand centers, where inmates are held pending trial, are under the jurisdiction of Alberta Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Tyler Shandro, who previously served as the provincial health minister until 2021.

You don’t want to talk about what you have done. You’ve done terrible things. We all have done terrible things. Now let’s see what God wants to do.

— Pastor Artur Pawlowski to his fellow inmates

Fox News reached out to Calgary Remand Centre for comment regarding Pawlowski’s allegations and was forwarded to Shandro’s office.

“The safety and security of staff, inmates and visitors are a priority for Alberta Justice and Solicitor General,” a spokesperson for Shandro’s office told Fox News. “Should any individual have concerns about their housing or treatment while in custody, they can submit a complaint to the correctional facility director in writing.

“Information regarding current or former inmates in provincial correctional facilities is protected by privacy legislation. Therefore we are unable to release personal or health-related information,” the spokesperson added.

‘God is shaking things’

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Gaylene Kendall granted Pawlowski’s bail on March 25 after reviewing his case, but he was required to pay a $25,000 bail and a $10,000 surety from his wife, as well as $2,000 from his son. 

He remains under house arrest and is subject to curfew from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and can only leave his residence to conduct worship services or for medical emergencies. He must not participate in any protests. He still faces a slew of charges related to the fallout of keeping his church open during the pandemic.

Pawlowski, who grew up in communist Poland and has been warning of growing tyranny in Canada for 17 years, lamented that “Canada is going from bad to worse,” but he remains hopeful that the veil has been lifted on Canadian authorities in recent months. His situation prompted protests at Canadian consulates throughout the United States and moved thousands to sign a letter to Congress urging a resolution condemning his treatment.

In March, a resolution was introduced in the Ohio State Legislature urging the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to add Canada to its special watch list because of how pastors have been treated in the country, echoing a similar call from Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.

Churches throughout Canada have faced imprisoned pastors, locked facilities, steep fines, and continued interference from government officials.

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“It looks like those villains, those tyrants, those dictators are not stopping,” said Pawlowski. “And I think that God wants this to be exposed. So those types of people never stop. They need to be exposed.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, on Jan. 12, 2022.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, on Jan. 12, 2022.
(David Kawai/Bloomberg)

“They keep doing evil things, they keep exposing themselves and God keeps exposing them,” he continued. “And I just pray that in the process of Canada being judged by God and those people being exposed for who they really are, God would protect his church and his people.

“And even though the past two months were extremely difficult, physically, psychologically, and spiritually for me, He kept me alive. And thank God that they were not able to wound me more than God allowed them to wound me, so I can have a taste of what’s really happening behind the closed doors where no one is really looking.

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“So I think that God is exposing, God is judging, God is shaking things,” he continued, adding that he thinks “God is looking for people who will be brave enough to do the right thing.”

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