A church and 26 people have been fined following an illegal faith gathering in the Annapolis Valley on Sunday amid a surge of COVID-19 case numbers in Nova Scotia.
Officers with Kings District RCMP were called to Weston Christian Fellowship Church in Weston, N.S., shortly after 11 a.m., where they found a faith gathering underway.
“Twenty-six people were charged in the event, as a result of the gathering, and then the organization itself that was hosting the gathering was also charged,” said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Chris Marshall.
“Basically, anybody that was over the age of 16 was issued a fine. There were some children and things there, but the children weren’t issued fines.”
Under current COVID-19 restrictions, in-person faith gatherings in Nova Scotia are not permitted.
Marshall said police also responded to that same church last weekend during an illegal gathering.
“There was only a handful of people that were there … so everyone there was there, and the organization itself, was warned and advised about what the restrictions were,” he said.
“And then, obviously, we got a second call yesterday, and so given that they’ve been warned a week prior, we decided to pursue with enforcement.”
The 26 people were each fined $2,422 — comprised of a $2,000 fine, along with victim surcharges and court costs — and the church was fined $11,622.50.
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“We’re at a point now where a lot of these restrictions have been in place for a long time, people should keep themselves aware of what the current restrictions are and abide by them,” said Marshall.
“If we attend somewhere and charges are warranted, they’re certainly going to be laid and we’re going to be enforcing the restrictions.”
Dr. Strang disappointed
Global News was unable to reach the Weston Christian Fellowship Church by phone Monday.
During a COVID-19 news conference Monday, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, described the situation as a “disappointment,” though he said most faith leaders in the province are following the rules.
“We recognize the importance of faith services, of worship. But also recognize that right now, there’s a need to do that in ways that don’t bring people together, and the vast majority of our faith leaders understand and support that,” he said.
“But it’s disappointing that this happened, and I hope people understand that we’re not doing this because we want to, but it’s absolutely necessary to keep people safe.”