Springs Church in Winnipeg is hoping to dispel “misunderstandings,” after facing considerable backlash for a grad ceremony it held Thursday.
In a press release, senior pastor Leon Fontaine acknowledges the event took place, but says the ceremony happened on the last day of classes, and 18 students from a single cohort were brought into a closed TV studio on location.
He claims the students were spaced out during the event, which was then broadcast on a television screen to people in vehicles in the parking log.
“Members of the public were not put at any risk at any time as a result of the Virtual College Graduation,” Fontaine writes.
“Springs College has been operating and complying under the post-secondary training rules of the Health Orders for the past 9 months.”
Current public health orders do permit up to 25 post-secondary students to be in the same room together, but for in-person learning only.
Indoor gatherings are mostly banned, with a few limited exceptions.
In photos circulating social media, not a single person can be seen wearing a mask.
A day earlier, numerous government officials condemned the event.
“I’ll certainly look forward to finding out what’s actually happened before I comment,” Premier Brian Pallister said Saturday.
“But obviously if there are violations, I would expect that there would be consequences for that and it would be most unfortunate.”
Opposition leader Wab Kinew also voiced concern Saturday.
“I think it’s frustrating to a lot of Manitobans, particularly heading into a long weekend where we’re not going to see out family or friends, that other folks are flouting the rules,” Kinew said.
Provincial officials tightened up public health restrictions ahead of the May long weekend; disallowing outdoor gatherings of anyone outside of a single household, and only permitting one person from each home to enter a business at once.
Those orders are in effect until Wednesday.
With files from Marney Blunt