Chilliwack RCMP is recommending charges against three churches that held in-person services last Sunday, in contravention of a COVID-19 health order.
The province banned in-person worship on Nov. 19, citing surging COVID-19 case numbers, and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says there have been documented cases of transmission in such settings.
“The Chilliwack RCMP want to acknowledge that the vast majority of people in our community are complying with the public health order,” police said in a media release.
“Despite efforts by the Chilliwack RCMP on the first two Sundays to educate and gain voluntary compliance, a very small number continue to hold in-person services in direct contravention of the public health order.”
Mounties did not specify which churches they were referring to.
Global News cameras captured worshippers attending services at both the Free Grace Baptist Church and Chilliwack Free Reformed Church in the city, along with Langley’s Riverside Cavalry Church.
One Free Grace service attendee told reporters outside that he didn’t see any risk in going to church.
“I’m not particularly worried. I don’t come into contact with a lot of people who are vulnerable,” said Brendan Vugteveen.
While most B.C. religious institutions have complied with the order, several — including the Catholic Archbishop of Vancouver — have protested about the measures.
Some have gone further and held services anyway, arguing that the order violates their rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
On Thursday, Health Minister Adrian Dix responded to accusations from one Surrey preacher that the province was not respecting faith communities.
“In our church, we’ve lost a lot of loved ones this year, including our minister. And that the loss of being able to come together on Sunday has been profound for members of that congregation, just as they have been for congregations around B.C,” Dix said.
“I am overwhelmingly inspired by the work done by faith communities of all faiths, of all denominations, to support people in their community in a difficult time. And so all I can say is it’s not, it’s gratitude.”
Dix said he and Henry had spoken with hundreds of faith leaders around the province to talk about ways to safely worship while restrictions remain in place to try and slow the spread of the virus.
The Chilliwack RCMP said it wanted to acknowledge that the “vast majority” of people in the community were following health orders.
The matter has now been referred to the B.C. Prosecution Service for consideration of charges under the COVID-19 Related Measures Act.”