Kelowna protestors call for end to ban on indoor church services and offer support to Grace Life Church | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna protestors call for end to ban on indoor church services and offer support to Grace Life Church

Kelowna pastor Art Lucier at a rally in Kelowna April 11.
April 11, 2021 - 12:23 PM

Dozens have gathered in Kelowna’s Kerry Park today, April 11, as an act of “solidarity” with the Grace Life Church in Alberta and to express continued dissatisfaction with restrictions on church gatherings.

“We followed the rules for six months, we spaced the chairs and only allowed 50 people,” Harvest Life Church pastor Art Lucier said in an opening speech.

Then, he said, the provincial health officer shut them down for what was supposed to be two weeks, and that was OK. It’s now been five months, Lucier said, and indoor faith gatherings have yet to resume.

“Something real came though. It’s real, 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.”

Meanwhile, he said, places like Whistler hundreds of cases for December alone, and it stayed open until very recently when a spike in cases prompted the provincial health officer to close it down.

He noted that pubs, wineries and restaurants continued on until very recently — something he said he's enjoyed.

“How is that fair?” Lucier asked the crowd.

He argued that the stoppage to church gatherings is a breach of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and noted that his church has been gathering throughout the pandemic, and has even grown.

While they’ve received a couple of fines, the actions taken against B.C. churches have not been as significant as has happened in Alberta.

Last week, Alberta Health Services barricaded GraceLife Church, preventing access to the building until the church complies with Alberta’s public health measures.

The church, just outside Edmonton, under Pastor James Coates, has broken COVID-19 lockdown regulations every Sunday by holding packed services.

Coates recently spent 35 days in solitary confinement at the Edmonton Remand Centre.

B.C. had initially intended to allow a variance through April and part of May to allow religions to celebrate major spring holidays indoors but rescinded the exception before Easter as a part of what it's called a three-week “circuit breaker” when caseloads began to surge.  Numbers continue to climb and in the week that followed case count numbers were toppled. On Friday B.C. reported 1,262 new cases, for a total of 109,540 cases since the start of the pandemic.

There are 9,574 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 15,673 people under public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases. A further 98,336 people who tested positive have recovered.

Of the active cases, 332 individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 102 of whom are in intensive care. The remaining people with COVID-19 are recovering at home in self-isolation.

Regardless of these numbers, multiple churches gathered and  Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said they were “irresponsible,” especially because outdoor services have been permitted.

Last month, the B.C. Supreme Court upheld the province’s restrictions on religious gatherings, ruling that it was a reasonable infringement on religious liberty.

To date, there have been 23,313 COVID-19 related deaths in Canada.

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