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Edmonton-area pastor jailed for breaching COVID regulations

A judge threw James Coates in the slammer after he twice refused to tell the court he would stop his services.

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An Edmonton- area pastor who repeatedly broke COVID-19 restrictions to hold services has been thrown in jail.

A judge threw James Coates, of Spruce Grove, in the slammer after he twice refused to tell the court he would stop his services.

“On Sunday, Feb. 14, the RCMP, with AHS, attended the GraceLife Church to assess compliance in relation to conditions issued to the Pastor on Feb. 7. Observations were made that James Coates was not complying with his Undertaking release conditions, and the church was not in compliance with the Public Health Order,” said RCMP in a release.

“On Feb. 16, James Coates turned himself in to the Parkland Detachment. He was charged in contravention of the Public Health Act (x2), and charged for failing to comply with a condition of his Undertaking, under the Criminal Code.

“Following a bail hearing before a Justice of the Peace, Coates was to be released on conditions. He remained in custody overnight after refusing to agree to those conditions. This morning in Stony Plain Provincial Court he continued to refuse to agree with those conditions and a Judge’s Order was issued compelling him to attend court on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021.”

Coates was also issued a $1,200 ticket in December for breaking regulations.

“We’ve been consistent in our approach of escalated levels of enforcement with Pastor Coates, and we were hopeful to resolve this issue in a different manner” said Insp. Mike Lokken.

 “The Pastor’s actions, and the subsequent effects those actions could have on the health and safety of citizens, dictated our response in this situation.”

The church is holding services with up to 300 people in attendance.

“We do not see our actions as perpetuating the longevity of COVID-19 or any other virus that will inevitably come along,” a statement from the church reads.

“If anything, we see our actions as contributing to its end — the end of destructive lockdowns and the end of the attempt to institutionalize the debilitating fear of viral infections.”

NDP leader Rachel Notley has taken to Twitter to voice her displeasure towards GraceLife Church.

“We cannot have open defiance of public health orders while the vast majority of Albertans do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Notley.

She urged the premier and the Alberta government – who has yet to publicly respond on the matter – to “step in and stop” those who continue to evade efforts to flatten the curve. 

Occupancy limits on places of worship remain at 15 per cent occupancy across the province, per AHS public health measures.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard and the Vice-President: News Division of Western Standard New Media Corp. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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Vulnerable Albertans 18+ can receive fourth COVID booster

Eligible individuals can begin booking fourth dose appointments beginning January 20 with AHS or at participating pharmacies by using the Alberta vaccine booking system or by calling 811.

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Those 18 and older who have specific immunocompromising conditions can now book their fourth booster five months after receiving their third dose, said Alberta Health.

The decision announced on Tuesday in the provincial COVID-19 address is in line with recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) and the Alberta Advisory Committee on Immunization (AACI).

“We remain committed to protecting Albertans from the Omicron variant, and vaccinations continue to be our best tool in preventing severe outcomes,” said Premier Jason Kenney in a statement.

“We continue to rely on the latest research to guide our decision-making, and with evidence showing immunocompromised individuals benefit from a fourth dose, we are pleased to provide them.”

Eligible individuals can begin booking fourth dose appointments beginning January 20 with AHS or at participating pharmacies by using the Alberta vaccine booking system or by calling 811.

“I know that the approximately 80,000 Albertans who live with immunocompromising conditions will be relieved to receive these additional doses,” said Minister of Health Jason Copping.

“At the same time, the best way for all of us to protect ourselves and one another is to continue getting whatever dose we are eligible for. I encourage all Albertans to continue to sign up for their booster doses as soon as they can.”

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the fourth COVID-19 dose will help “individuals with certain immunocompromising conditions” and will provide “additional protection” against the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

Qualifying conditions include:

  • Transplant recipients, including solid organ transplants and hematopoietic stem cell transplants.
  • Individuals with malignant hematologic disorders and non-hematologic malignant solid tumors prior to receiving or receiving active treatment (chemotherapy, targeted therapies, immunotherapy or having received previous COVID-19 vaccines while on active treatment), excluding individuals receiving solely hormonal therapy, radiation therapy or a surgical intervention.
  • Individuals being treated with an anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody such as Rituximab.
  • Individuals with chronic kidney disease on dialysis.
  • Recipients of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T-cell therapy.
  • Individuals with moderate to severe primary immunodeficiency (e.g., DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome).
  • Individuals with Stage 3 or advanced HIV infection and those with acquired COVID-19 immunization.
  • Individuals undergoing immunosuppressive therapies (e.g., anti-B cell therapies, high-dose systemic corticosteroids, alkylating agents, antimetabolites, or tumornecrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors and other biologic agents).
  • Individuals on certain medications for autoimmune diseases, including rituximab, ocrelizumab and ofatumumab.

“Youth ages 12 to 17 with the preceding conditions continue to be eligible for third doses. Fourth doses have not yet been approved for this age group,” said the release adding, “third doses have not been approved for youth under the age of 18.”

Hinshaw said the province has recorded 3279 new cases within the last 24 hours while 8995 tests were recorded for a positivity rate of 39%. Hinshaw has earlier stated actual cases are likely 10 times higher due to lack of testing.

Hinshaw also confirmed 1,089 are currently in hospital — 51% of those hospitalized are due to COVID-19 while 49% are cases with COVID-19. Currently, there are 104 people in ICU — 74% due to COVID-19 while 26% are cases with COVID-19. Nine deaths were reported in the last 24 hours.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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AHS uses undercover agents to bust restaurant for accepting dog photos instead of QR codes

The test shoppers entered the restaurant at different times on January 11 and were permitted access after showing a photo of a dog and their personal identification.

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Alberta Health Services (AHS) has shut down a Red Deer restaurant for allowing patrons to show dog photos in place of proof of vaccination.

The Granary was ordered closed to indoor dining on Friday after complaints to an AHS executive officer resulted in two test shoppers busting staff for accepting photographs of a dog instead of scanning vaccine passport QR codes.

The test shoppers entered the restaurant at different times on January 11 and were permitted access after showing a photo of a dog and their personal identification. It was reported a staffer pretended to scan QR codes with a tablet.

The owners have been told the indoor dining area is to remain closed until they produce a written plan on how they plan to implement the restriction exemption program moving forward.

The owners will also have to provide confirmation they have trained staff about the program and will be required to attend an administrative hearing with Environmental Public Health.

The restaurant took to its Facebook page on Friday to explain the circumstances to its patrons and offered up free coffee for all to-go orders throughout the weekend.

“To our valued guests, we had an unfortunate circumstance at our front door which involved one of our underage hostesses, and the requirements for the REP program.  We are taking the weekend to retrain and regroup,” it said.

“We look forward to serving you again as soon as we are ready to reopen.  In closing, we would like to remind everyone of the tremendous pressure being placed on front staff, and please remember to be kind.”

The restaurant has since opened again and is currently offering free rapid testing on site.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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MLA Barnes demands greater punishment for corrupt politicians

“This suspension is a staggering under reaction designed to shield one of the Premier’s cronies,” said Barnes.

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Independent Alberta MLA Drew Barnes is outraged that Justice Minister Kaycee Madu was only being suspended after he called Edmonton’s police chief about a ticket he received.

That action led to Madu being suspended Monday night by Alberta Primer Jason Kenney.

“This suspension is a staggering under reaction designed to shield one of the Premier’s cronies,” said Barnes, the MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat.

“It is inexcusable that any minister’s first instinct upon receiving such a ticket is to swing influence in an attempt to get his ticket fixed. It’s just another indicator that the culture of Redford-era cronyism remains alive and well within Premier’ Kenney’s inner circle.”

After being fined $300 for speeding in an Edmonton playground zone, Madu phoned Dale McFee, the city’s chief of police, to discuss the ticket with him. 

“It is particularly galling that this minister is currently overseeing changes that will deny procedural fairness for thousands of Albertans when they face similar traffic fines,” said Barnes.

This follows the removal of traffic courts in Alberta, the previously most accessible part of the justice system now no longer available to citizens.

“Under this minister, you are considered guilty until proven innocent, unless, of course, you happen to have the local police chief on speed-dial,” said Barnes.

“It seems the minister, like the Premier, considers himself above the law. Albertans deserve better. The real question is, why hasn’t he been fired yet?”

“Over the past year, Premier Kenney has repeatedly punished both ministers and MLAs for daring to question his leadership, but when a real case of misuse of power comes along concerning one of his handpicked cronies, the fix is in. That’s not justice; that’s cronyism.”

McFee said he received the call about the ticket from Madu, saying Madu brought up the issue of racial profiling by police to stop drivers.

“This is the Minister who continues to encourage legal action against pastors and small business owners for allegedly violating the very same health restrictions that the Premier and his cronies violated on the Sky Palace patio,” said Barnes.

Ewa Sudyk is a reporter with the Western Standard
esudyk@westernstandardonline.com

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