Not Real News

In this Sunday, July 18 photo, smoke from wildfires is carried by winds, obscuring the view for visitors to the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Alberta. On Friday, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly asserting the Canadian province of Alberta lifted all COVID-19 restrictions after health officials couldn’t provide evidence in court that the virus exists. Alberta relaxed its restrictions because the province hit predetermined vaccination goals, not because of a court case.

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

THE FACTS: Alberta relaxed its COVID-19 restrictions because the province hit predetermined vaccination goals, not because of a court case. Due to a misrepresentation of what happened in a court case involving Patrick King, a Canadian resident, King is being falsely credited on social media with driving the change.

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. The court 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.” King did not respond to a request for comment.

— Associated Press writer Arijeta Lajka in New York contributed this report.