CHILLIWACK (NEWS 1130) – Despite the Fraser Valley being a hotspot for COVID-19 infections, the Upper Fraser Valley RCMP, which polices Chilliwack, won’t be going after religious leaders who continue to disregard strict guidelines.
Under current public health orders, put in place by B.C.’s top physician, Dr. Bonnie Henry, religious gatherings are not allowed. However, this past weekend three churches were busted for holding in-person services.
Chilliwack RCMP says it doesn’t plan to ticket religious leaders for holding in-person services, even though it’s not allowed. It’s already happened and @Fraserhealth confirms #COVID19 cases/clusters have been linked to these kinds of gatherings.
— Sonia Aslam (@SoniaSAslam) December 2, 2020
The leader of the Riverside Calvary Chapel at 201 Street and 96th Avenue was handed a fine of $2,300, but the two churches in Chilliwack didn’t face the same financial consequence.
We asked repeatedly but RCMP Cpl. Mike Rail says their focus right now is to take more of an educational approach. “The plan moving forward is through education and having everyone comply with the health orders.”
He won’t say if extra resources are being brought in this weekend or if members will be tasked with keeping a close eye on religious gatherings. “It’s a fluid situation, and to speak to what is going to happen a week from now, we’re not a week from now, we’re right now. At this moment, the Chilliwack RCMP are moving forward with education to have compliance with the health regulations.”
Rail adds most churches throughout the region are complying with the rules.
The Fraser Health Authority confirms cases or clusters of COVID-19 have been linked to religious gatherings.
“It is false that COVID transmission has not occurred in places of worship,” says the authority’s CEO, Dr. Victoria Lee. “In fact, we have seen COVID-19 clusters or cases in temples, churches, and prayer gatherings. Whenever people gather in person, especially right now when we have significant community transmission of COVID-19, this introduces another platform where that transmission can occur.”
She along with Dr. Henry acknowledge people want to come together to pray, especially as we inch closer to the holidays, but are asking them to stay home or gather virtually instead.
“Faith is not a building,” said Henry during her in-person briefing on Nov. 30. “It is not about Sunday mornings, but it is about every day and how we connect with each other and how we support each other. It’s not about rights, but it’s about community and responsibility to our fellow citizens.”
The public health orders in place right now don’t expire until December 7th, when it’s expected they’ll be extended again.