An Alberta Heath Services (AHS) Environmental Public Health inspector visited GraceLife Church on Friday, AHS said in a statement
GraceLife Church in Parkland County held another packed service on Good Friday in violation of COVID-19 restrictions despite a closure order issued in January for non-compliance.
The church parking lot was full just before the service start time of 11 a.m. as attendees filed in, and four RCMP cruisers could be seen on the road outside the church.
Churches are allowed to be open under the current COVID-19 restrictions but must limit capacity to 15 per cent, require mandatory masking and physical distancing between households. GraceLife has been found in violation of these restrictions every Sunday since the closure order from Alberta Health Services came into effect.
In a livestream of the church’s service Friday, attendees could be seen singing unmasked in violation of the rules.
An Alberta Heath Services (AHS) Environmental Public Health inspector visited GraceLife Church on Friday, AHS said in a statement.
“They noted what appeared to be breaches of the current Chief Medical Officer of Health’s (CMOH) restrictions related to capacity, physical distancing, and masking,” the statement reads. “AHS continues to consider further enforcement options.”
Health officials asked to meet with leadership from the church this week prior to the Good Friday service, but by Thursday that request had not been granted, said AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson.
All four RCMP cruisers left the church shortly after Friday’s service began.
“We are there to support Alberta Health Services as they continue their dealings with the church and the RCMP is committed to assist Alberta Health Services who are leading the response,” RCMP Cpl. Troy Savinkoff said Friday.
The Good Friday service comes a day after Premier Jason Kenney issued a plea to Albertans to follow the rules as cases spike in the province, which Kenney called “a significant new wave of COVID-19.”
“We plead once again for your patience and for your co-operation, especially going into the Easter weekend,” Kenney said to Albertans Thursday.
GraceLife Church pastor James Coates led the service for the second time since his release from jail March 22 after he was charged twice for violating the Public Health Act. One of those charges has since been dropped and a second will be taken to trial in May. Coates also received a $1,500 fine for violating bail conditions, which was paid through time served.
The church has had COVID-19 cases in the past, but Alberta Health this week declined to say how many cases were connected to the church or if anyone had died. A statement on the church’s website said there were two cases.
— with files from Lauren Boothby
More to come.