Edmonton-area church charged for over-capacity services during COVID-19 pandemic

Legal counsel for GraceLife Church was served March 4 with a summons to attend Stony Plain Provincial Court on May 5 in connection with COVID-19 public health orders.

The church, which is west of Edmonton, was charged “as an entity” for exceeding the 15 per cent allowable capacity for services held on Feb. 21 and Feb. 28, Parkland RCMP said in a news release on March 10.

Being over 15 per cent capacity broke section 73(1) of the Public Health Act.

Read more: How Canadian Charter rights are playing into Alberta pastor’s fight against COVID-19 charges

In order to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, Alberta enacted restrictions on gatherings, including limiting faith services to 15 per cent of fire code occupancy for in-person attendance, mandating physical distance between households and mandatory face coverings.

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“The Parkland RCMP supported the AHS investigation at GraceLife Church this past Sunday,” RCMP said Wednesday.

“The church was non-compliant with the Public Health Order in that it was over the allowed capacity.”

“The RCMP members were present for public safety and to support AHS, and did not go inside the church.”

The investigation continues “by AHS and supported by the Parkland RCMP.”

Read more: Edmonton-area pastor accused of violating public health orders to remain in jail until trial

The pastor of the church was charged with violating Alberta’s Public Health Act and with breaking a promise to abide by conditions of his bail release, which is covered under the Criminal Code.

GraceLife Church has been holding services that officials say break public-health orders on attendance, masking and distancing.

On Friday, a judge ruled that James Coates will remain in jail until his trial this spring because religious beliefs are not above public health orders.

Coates had been in jail for more than two weeks and was appealing his bail conditions.

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