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Alberta did not lift COVID-19 restrictions because of ‘freedom fighter’

August 10, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: The Canadian province of Alberta lifted all COVID-19 restrictions after health officials couldn’t provide evidence in court that the virus exists.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Alberta relaxed its COVID-19 restrictions because the province hit predetermined vaccination goals. Patrick King, a Canadian resident, has been falsely credited on social media with driving the change. But that’s due to a misunderstanding of what happened in a court case.

THE FACTS: Court records show King was fined in December for violating COVID-19 measures, specifically for gathering in a large group while protesting masks and pandemic restrictions.

King, who represented himself in court, sought to challenge the validity of Alberta’s public health rules and requested that the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, present papers that discuss the isolation of SARS-CoV-2 “directly from a sample taken from a diseased patient.”

In July, the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta quashed the subpoena and found that King had not shown the material he requested was relevant to his case. The court also said the health agency “has no material evidence” that pertains to King’s fine.

Multiple social media users, including King, misrepresented the language used by the court, falsely suggesting it proved there is no evidence that COVID-19 exists. During an interview with conservative podcaster Stew Peters, King falsely stated: “They knew this whole time that this was never isolated,” later adding that restrictions were made to “bankrupt our country under the guise of a false pandemic.”

The AP has previously debunked the false claim that coronavirus has never been isolated. Chinese authorities first isolated the virus on Jan. 7, 2020 and Canadian scientists did so in March of 2020.

“The Court decision regarding the subpoena was a preliminary technical matter,” Brett Boyden, a spokesperson for the chief medical officer of health, told the AP in an email. “It was argued that Dr. Hinshaw did not have any material evidence to provide that would be relevant to the matters to be decided at trial. The Court decided to quash the subpoena.”

Social media users referred to King as a “freedom fighter” who “forced the government to admit” that COVID-19 doesn’t exist, and falsely claimed that Alberta lifted all restrictions because of King’s case.

Alberta recently eased COVID-19 restrictions but the decision had nothing to do with King, according to the health agency. The province entered the final phase of its Open for Summer Plan after at least 70% of residents over the age of 12 received at least one dose of the vaccine.

It is false to claim there is any relationship between the decision on the subpoena and the lifting of public health measures,” Boyden said. He added, “Mr. King was ultimately found guilty of the offence at trial and sentenced to pay a fine.”

The Associated Press did not receive comment from King at the time of publication.

This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.