Dozens of protesters gathered to protest COVID-19 restrictions on churches and its gatherings in Kelowna, a city located in the southern part of British Columbia, Canada. They gathered in support of GraceLife Church, which Canadian health authorities had shut down a week earlier in Edmonton, Alberta.
Protesters rallied in "solidarity" with the members of GraceLife Church and expressed dissatisfaction with the government's restrictions on church gatherings.
Infotel reported that members of churches in Kelowna condemned the COVID-19 restrictions on churches, which was supposed to be implemented for two weeks, but went on for five months.
"We followed the rules for six months, we spaced the chairs and only allowed 50 people," Pastor Art Lucier of Harvest Ministries International said during a speech. "We're not saying the virus isn't real, but out of 17,000 cases of COVID in Canada only 170 cases were attributed to churches of B.C."
Pastor Lucier pointed out the unfair restrictions on churches, saying that while places such as the Whistler town in Vancouver, British Columbia had hundreds of COVID-19 cases in December, it remained open until a recent spike in cases caused health authorities to shut it down. Pastor Lucier argued that banning church gatherings is "a breach of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms'' and that the Harvest Life Church even grew throughout the pandemic.
According to the Edmonton Journal, GraceLife Church grounds had been fenced off by the Alberta Health Services (AHS) health inspectors and police on Wednesday. Authorities warned that the church will remain closed until the congregation "shows it can comply with current health restrictions."
In January, the AHS ordered the church to close when its Sunday services violated the worship limit of 15% capacity and members refrained from wearing masks and practiced social distancing. GraceLife Church's Pastor James Coates was also charged for violating COVID-19 restrictions and was sentenced to a 35-day jail stay. About 400 protesters gathered in front of GraceLife Church on Sunday to protest Canada's unfair restrictions on churches.
One of the protesters was Jordon Kosik who was not a member of GraceLife but was a church attendee who encouraged protesters to "remain united and peaceful." He said it didn't matter which church he belonged to, he just wanted to show support. Kosik added that the government should "adopt a regional approach to guidelines and provide more data to support the restrictions they have in place" and proceed with reopening the country. The AHS disagrees.
"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," the AHS announced, as per CBC. Alberta reported over 1,000 new COVID-19 cases involving variants of concern.
Meanwhile, Global News reported that over 120,000 Alberta citizens have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and more than 734,000 doses have been administered as of April 5. Premier Jason Kenney announced the government's commitment to speed up the vaccine rollout to its citizens to address the spread of variants of concern.