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Alberta church shut down, fenced off for ignoring COVID-19 health restrictions

Last Updated Apr 7, 2021 at 12:02 pm PDT

Fences are seen around GraceLife Church near Edmonton after AHS shut down the church for multiple COVID-19 violations. (PHOTO: Rod Maldaner, CityNews)
Summary

GraceLife church in Alberta has been the centre of controversy after it held services with more people than allowed

EDMONTON — Alberta health officials have closed a church near Edmonton after it held multiple over-capacity services despite current COVID-19 restrictions.

Photos circulating online Wednesday morning showed large fences being put up around the GraceLife church.

GraceLife has been the centre of controversy after it held services with more people in attendance than allowed under current COVID-19 protocols.

The church’s pastor, James Coates, also spent a month behind bars for charges in relation to breaking pandemic health restrictions.

Related article: Canada’s biggest provinces bring in public health restrictions amid COVID-19 rise

Photos online also showed RCMP on-site and nearby roads blocked off, limiting access to the church.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) says that it has “physically closed” the place of worship “until GLC can demonstrate the ability to comply with Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health’s (CMOH) restrictions.”

“For several months, AHS has attempted to work collaboratively with GLC to address the ongoing public health concerns at the site,” reads a release from AHS.

As fencing continued to go up around the property, supporters of the church gathered to protest the closure.

Alberta RCMP said they will not be providing official interviews or statements because they are assisting AHS in the closure of the church.

AHS says it handed down a list of orders to get the church back to operating safely under COVID-19 guidelines but that the church decided not to follow the rules or attempt to work with health officials.

Between last July and April 6 of this year, AHS says it received 105 complaints about GraceLife and inspectors have conducted 10 site inspections. Violations were observed at each visit.

“With COVID-19 cases increasing and the more easily-transmitted and potentially more severe variants becoming dominant, there is urgent need to minimize spread to protect all Albertans.”

Currently, Alberta churches are allowed to be open at 15 per cent capacity, but officials say GraceLife has welcomed hundreds of congregants at its services.