“I grew up seeing police and authorities destroying my country, not upholding the law. They were the truly brown shirts of the government, beating, torturing and showing total disregard towards law. Even though we had the constitution, they didn’t care,” Pawlowski said.
Pawlowski’s dad was an engineer and his mom was an architect before they fled communist Poland more than 30 years ago.
“In one sense, it was horrible because communism is hell on Earth. In another, I had amazing parents. We had 5,000 books in the house. I read them all, almost,” Pawlowski said.
On Easter weekend, Calgary police came to Pawlowski’s church, accompanied by bylaw officers to enforce COVID-19 protocols. “Out! Out! Out of this property immediately until you come back with a warrant,” Pawlowski told them.
“So the only weapon I really have is my voice and my time so I’m using what I have because I don’t have any other means. So if I see danger, I yell, I scream. It’s like yelling at the bear in the middle of the forest. You’re scared. The bear can kill you and eat you, so you raise your hands and you’re yelling at the bear.”
The police returned on May 8 to arrest Pawlowski and his brother for holding an illegal in-person gathering and for “requesting, inciting or inviting others” to join them. Both charges related to the pastor having an indoor church service.
“When they are telling us right now: social distance, physical distance, don’t meet together, don’t pray. I mean, you’re talking about family. You’re talking about structure that keeps us all sane, all together, strong. But they want to destabilize that, they want to separate us, they want us to be miserable alone.”
The City of Calgary has spent more than $2 million prosecuting Pawlowski for feeding the homeless in a Calgary park. They have arrested him 10 times and handed out more than 150 tickets. Pawlowski doesn’t discriminate on numbers or types of people when it comes to feeding them.
“People can stay, people can go, no one is forced. We feed homosexuals, we feed Muslims, we feed natives, whites, every colour in between. It doesn’t matter. No one asks, ‘Are you rich or poor?’ If you’re standing in my lineup, that means you want the food and you will get the food, no questions asked. That’s how I run this ministry. It’s the Lord’s table, he gives me the food, I just pass that food to others. So, depending on the day, we can have hundreds of people.”
Pawlowski knows what it means to be poor. When he fled Poland for Greece in 1990, he had almost nothing.
“I remember those times, those tough times. And through all of those difficult moments, God took us through. And the church was always this foundation in our lives to help us to go through it. … It’s a family.”
Why would the city fight a man like this?
He believes he knows the answer.
“One, it’s a huge hatred towards me being Christian, white Christian, representing the heritage of this country,” Pawlowski said.
“The second one is about money. Someone is making a huge business out of homelessness and here you got a ministry that has become very successful and we’re not charging anything.”
The father of three is concerned for the present and the future as he sees another government intrude on societal institutions.
“I love history. And, you know, it breaks my heart that Canadian kids are not learning history because you can learn so much from history. And if you know history, you will not repeat the same mistakes. And now seeing [governments and police repeat] history in front of my eyes, it scares me. And it puts such a fire in me that I just want to yell, I want to scream, ‘Don’t you dare repeat this history! Don’t you dare do this again to me!’” the pastor said.
“And then this huge government batted on top of our heads. That’s unacceptable. That’s communism, that’s fascism. That’s the state that tells the people what they can, what they cannot, with whom they can, and how. I mean the level of enslavement that I see right now in this country is scary.”
Lee Harding is a research associate for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
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