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Trinity Bible Chapel continues to defy provincial order

Municipal law enforcement attended Trinity Bible Chapel over the weekend for 'observational purposes'
Trinity Bible Chapel 1
Trinity Bible Chapel in Woolwich

Trinity Bible Chapel held more in-person gatherings over the weekend as the province remains under a stay-at-home order.

Currently, religious gatherings are able to hold services at 15 per cent capacity. 

According to Regional Chair Karen Redman Friday morning's COVID-19 media briefing, the church is able to hold just under 600 people, meaning capacity under current stay-at-home orders would be 86. 

A Region of Waterloo spokesperson said bylaw staff was on-site over the weekend.

"Municipal law enforcement staff were on-site at Trinity Bible Chapel yesterday in an observational capacity and the investigation is ongoing. There were no charges laid at this time." 

The most recent charges that were laid against the church and Pastor Jacob Rheaume came after gatherings were held for Easter Sunday.

Around 300 people attended those gatherings on Sunday, April 4, and those charges were in relation to holding large gatherings exceeding the provincial order.

Mayor of Woolwich Township Sandy Shantz is reiterating the importance of following public health guidelines, something that's been said many times over the course of the pandemic.

"The new variant is much more contagious and transmissible than the old one, and we're seeing more and more of those cases. To get us through the next few months especially, we really need to adhere to the public health guidelines and just do our very best. I know it's difficult for a lot of people in a lot of ways, but we have to hang tough and get through this (...) these are professional people who understand how viruses react in a pandemic, and who study this and give us their very best guidance. And, so, it's up to us to follow it, and try to keep each other safe, and to get through this and come out the other side in a good way." 

Shantz said she doesn't know how much stronger the statements that have been issued can get to stop the gatherings.

"I don't know what stronger statements can be made. The statements have all been made, charges are being laid as they are (...) I just wish that people would appreciate the importance of helping each other out in this way. I know many churches, most churches, and religious institutions, have found ways to support each other, to gather, to worship together - without physically gathering. While I understand it's difficult, it's just what we have to do right now to get through this."

Shantz adds she has received complaints from residents of Woolwich Township about Trinity Bible Chapel continuing to hold gatherings indoors that are in violation of current provincial orders. 

"People aren't happy," she said, "they feel that their health is being put at risk by people gathering in groups like this, whether it's a church or any other organization or group that's gathering. It's really putting people at risk. One person can transmit to very many people, and if you're in a group, that just becomes exponential." 

Back in January, when the region was under a stay-at-home order, the church held two in-person services that led to six church elders and Pastor Jacob Reaume all facing charges under the Reopening Ontario Act.

After those services were held, the Attorney General filed contempt of court proceedings where the church and its leaders were ordered to pay a total of $83,000 in fines as well as the government's court costs.

EDITOR'S NOTE: KitchenerToday does not permit comments on court stories.

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