Fence goes up around Alta. church refusing to follow COVID-19 orders

EDMONTON — A fence has been erected around an Alberta church after its congregation has met for months in violation of provincial COVID-19 orders.

Chain link fencing surrounded GraceLife Church and its parking lot in Parkland County west of Edmonton Wednesday morning.

Alberta Health Services said it “physically closed” the building and will be preventing access to it until GraceLife “can demonstrate the ability to comply with Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health’s restrictions.” 

Security and RCMP were also on scene. Mounties told CTV News Edmonton they were there “to assist with enforcement.” 

Several of the church’s supporters also attended, angry with the measures being taken by officials. 

“It’s time this insanity end,” one commented. 

Until Tuesday at midnight, places of worship were allowed to host services with 15 per cent capacity, physical distancing, and masks.

Pastor James Coates was charged – and jailed for several weeks – for refusing to comply with the public health orders, and the church as an entity was charged itself earlier in the year and ordered to close by AHS. 

AHS described its effort to work with the church to follow the rules as “collaborative.” Most recently, AHS says it sent a letter to Coates “providing him with information on the continued spread of COVID-19.” 

“Last week, AHS invited Pastor Coates to meet virtually to discuss the risks presented by COVID-19, however the church has not provided any dates to meet,” a statement read. “(GraceLife Church) has decided not to follow these mandatory restrictions, nor have they attempted to work with AHS to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.” 

Between July 2020 and April 6, 2021, AHS received 105 complaints about GraceLife and conducted 18 inspections. Violations were seen at each inspection, AHS noted. 

CTV News Edmonton has reached out to the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, who is representing Coates in court, about the Tuesday closure, but has not yet received a response. 

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