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UPDATED: Coates rues the publicity caused by GraceLife COVID stance

Coates admits his church was over the 15% mandated capacity last December 20, but said provincial regulations are unconstitutional.

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Pastor James Coates says he was never after publicity for his GraceLife Church in Spruce Grove when they repeatedly flouted Alberta COVID-19 lockdown laws.

“We never wanted this public position that we’ve been given,” Coates said on the witness stand on the first day of his trial in provincial court in Edmonton.

Coates faces a charge of violating the Public Health Act.

“It came to us. We’d happily resign all of it to be able to worship quietly on Sundays without all this attention,” he testified.

Coates admits his church was over the 15% mandated capacity last December 20, but said provincial regulations are unconstitutional.

He said the church initially followed COVID-19 restriction but decided to reopen in-person worship after the government eased restrictions in the summer.

“I don’t believe that COVID-19 poses a serious health risk to our people,” he said, admitting two members did catch it.

Coates said his faith made it impossible for him not to preach to 85% of his congregation if he followed capacity laws.

Earlier, the Crown’s only witness, an inspector with Alberta Health Services testified she saw members of GraceLife Church involved in risky behavior.

Janine Hanrahan said members of the church ignored social distancing guidelines, didn’t wear masks and disregarded COVID-19 capacity limits.

Hanrahan said AHS started to receive public complaints about Coates’ church breaking COVID-19 regulations last summer and she visited herself in July.

She testified she overheard Coates telling an RCMP officer Alberta’s chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw was a dictator and Premier Jason Kenney was just hiding behind her.

Coates was jailed for more than a month in mid-February because he was defying provincial COVID-19 lockdown orders by holding services at a capacity not authorized by the government.

At two bail hearings, Coates said he refused to abide by conditions that he stop preaching.

After being released from jail, the church continued to see large services, leading to Alberta Health Services, with the help of the RCMP, raiding the facility and building three fences around it.

While large protests erupted at the walled-off church, Coates continued with his services at a secret location and then put it up on YouTube.

AHS measures for faith services include limiting in-person attendance to 15% of fire code capacity.

…more to come

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 Editor 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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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Geri Klaassens

    May 6, 2021 at 10:11 pm

    Risky behaviour? Lol All the brothels and meth clinics need to be shut down by AHS. Now that’s some risky behaviour.

  2. Kelly Carter

    May 3, 2021 at 11:35 pm

    How is it that the government’s only witness is the AHS inspector who said that Coates was breaking the “rules”, which everyone knows is not in dispute. So they can’t be bothered to put forward their science behind the “rules”, or any justification of breaking the constitution? I find it rather shocking that the Crown could not bother with a reasonable defence of their position. I hope Carpay can manage to force Hinshaw on the stand to defend her regulations with her pseudo-science.

  3. Wesley Yaciuk

    May 3, 2021 at 7:55 pm

    Facts are Grace life church had no Covid cases expcept for one non related case in 2020. So where was the risk? This is not about health care but about the abuse of AHS and Govt. power. Government needed more time to present their proof that lockdowns worked. What were they going on in the last 13 months? Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out there wrong with this picture. I hope they have an descent unbiased Judge in this case.

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Third pastor arrested in Alberta for breaking COVID lockdowns

Pastor Tim Stephens, of the Fairview Baptist Church, was arrested by city police on Sunday afternoon.

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A Calgary baptist preacher has become the third religious leader arrested in Alberta for breaking COVID-19 regulations over church attendance.

Pastor Tim Stephens, of the Fairview Baptist Church, was arrested by city police on Sunday afternoon. He had been the subject of repeated warnings from Alberta Health Services for having too many people at his services.

Earlier this month, on the church’s website, Stephens vowed to contiue services.

“Our actions are borne out of theological commitments to the Lordship of Christ and his instruction to the church as revealed in Scripture,” wrote Stephens.

“This, above all, is the reason why we have been gathering and will continue to gather … the consequences may be severe. But we stand before Christ rather than bend before consequences.”

Pastor James Coates, of the GraceLife Church, outside Edmonton, spent a month in jail after he was arrested by the RCMP for breaking lockdown regulations repeatedly. His case is still before the courts.

Last week, Pastor Art Pawlowski was arrested in Calgary for continuing to flout the regulations at his street chruch.

Calgary police at the AHS issued a joint statement saying Stephens was “arrested this afternoon for organizing a church service that was held today at Fairview Baptist Church, located at 230 78 Ave. S.E., that did not comply with public health orders, including masking, physical distancing and attendance limits. Police did not enter the church during today’s service.

“CPS has received repeated calls from concerned citizens regarding church services held at Fairview Baptist Church over the past several weeks. Last weekend, Pastor Stephens was proactively served a copy of the Court of Queen’s Bench Order obtained by AHS,” the statement said.

“The pastor acknowledged the injunction, but chose to move forward with today’s service, ignoring requirements for social distancing, mask-wearing and reduced capacity limits for attendees.

“For several weeks, AHS has attempted to work collaboratively with leadership at Fairview Baptist Church to address the ongoing public health concerns at the site. It is only when significant risk is identified or continued non-compliance is noted that AHS resorts to enforcement action.

“Once again, CPS acknowledges it is important to understand that law enforcement recognizes people’s desire to participate in faith-based gatherings as well as the right to protest. However, as we are still in a global pandemic, we all must comply with public health orders in order to ensure everyone’s safety and wellbeing.”

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

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LETTER: Hypocrisy in high school rodeo approval

I see the hypocrisy Premier Kenney, can you?

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RE: Hinshaw grants approval for high school rodeos

Dr. Hinshaw approved school rodeos after Premier Kenney thought the rodeo near Bowden was a bad idea. It’s the mixed messaging these two are giving that is making me mad. A lockdown with very minimum exemptions is what I thought Hinshaw wanted, but apparently not. A school rodeo can bloody well wait until after the lockdown is completed!! Let up on the Whistle Stop Cafe then, Dr. Hinshaw. What a bully.

It’s a real kick by Hinshaw, at the Whistle Stop Cafe owner. With his cafe now in chains, while Dr. Hinshaw gives out approvals during this so-called circuit breaker lockdown.

I see the hypocrisy Premier Kenney, can you?

Steven Ruthven
Calgary, AB

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Opposition calls for crackdown on animal activists

A proposed private members bill, C-205, would amend the Health of Animals Act to punish trespassers on farms with a maximum $250,000 fine and/or a maximum two-year prison sentence.

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By EMMA GREGORY

A coalition of federal Conservatives, NDP and Bloc MPs want to increase punishment for animal rights activists trespassing on farms, because they might make the animals sick.

A proposed private members bill, C-205, would amend the Health of Animals Act to punish trespassers on farms with a maximum $250,000 fine and/or a maximum two-year prison sentence.

Chief Veterinary Officer for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said there are no proven instances of an animal rights activists spreading a disease to animals while protesting at a farm.

“To our knowledge, there are not many documented cases from trespassing or from people having demonstrations. The one that I heard is the one in Quebec, but I’m not actually sure if there is evidence of transmission from the activists to the pigs. So in the scientific literature, we have not seen much evidence of transmission of disease from these activities,” said Dr. Jaspinder Komal, to the agriculture committee earlier this month.

The one instance Komal mentioned was an allegation made by Porgreg, a pig breeding facility in Saint Hyacinthe, Que.

The activists involved in that protest, members of the group Direct Action Everywhere, are charged under the Criminal Code with breaking and entering and mischief. Whether or not they gave pigs rotavirus is a matter before the court.

Rotaviruses are common amongst pig herds and typically are transmitted from pig to pig, via the fecal-oral route.

If a human were to spread a novel rotavirus to a pig it would be in a similar fashion.

When asked if she or any of her associates pooped in the barn, activist Jenny McQueen said, “No.”

Komal said the CFIA does not police activists.

“The CFIA enforces the Health of Animals Act and regulations which address disease and biological, chemical, physical agents that may affect animals or be transmitted to persons and in the same way to protect animals from these risks…CFIA inspectors are public officers they are not peace officers… In contrast, peace officers are generally police officers, their powers include the ability to detain or arrest individuals. Peace officers may also be armed where public officers such as inspectors are not,” he said.

There are several new provincial laws that seek to lay blame for disease outbreaks in farmed animals on activists.

The Canadian Biosecurity Guideline lists an intentional act of contaminating animals with a disease is considered a possible threat of bioterrorism.

Gregory is a Vancouver-based freelance reporter

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