Chilliwack RCMP say they are recommending that charges be laid against people connected to three churches that have held in-person gatherings which are banned under current public health orders.
In a news statement on Saturday, the RCMP confirmed that it is recommending charges against three separate churches within Chilliwack, and has sent evidence to the BC Prosecution Service.
“Each of these incidents was actively investigated by the Chilliwack RCMP,” said Sgt. Krista Vrolyk in a statement.
On Sunday, fewer members attended a rescheduled 10 a.m. service at Free Grace Baptist Church on Wellington Avenue.
But CTV News still spotted dozens of worshipers leaving the building, despite the provincial health order.
“It’s disproportionately affecting the elderly, and yet we’re locking down society,” said Damian Dupont, who went to the church for the first time Sunday to show his support.
“If we just fold and say, ‘OK, we will buckle to restrictions the government arbitrarily decides to put in place,’ then the future of our society is not particularly bright.”
B.C. health officials have said repeatedly that restrictions on in-person worship and social gatherings are necessary to stop the transmission of COVID-19 that has led to a spike in infections and deaths since September.
RCMP say the in-person services were in contravention of the provincial public health order.
“The evidence gathered has resulted in the Chilliwack RCMP forwarding a report to the BC Prosecution Service for charge assessment of these violations,” she continued.
Vrolyk’s statement suggests that police monitored the churches for three weeks in a row.
“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.”
Last Sunday, CTV News Vancouver reported that the Free Grace Baptist held a service. Specifically, Pastor Jim Butler led an in-person service, in violation of the provincial health order for a second week in a row.
Vrolyk would not share the names of the specific churches police have recommended charges against.
"The details of these violations have been provided to the BC Prosecution Service for their charge assessment and I am not able to discuss the specifics at this time," she told CTV News Vancouver in a separate statement.
B.C.’s public health order allows police to investigate possible violations of the COVID-19 Related Measures Act, issue tickets and recommend charges.
“The Chilliwack RCMP will continue to actively investigate all reports of in-person congregation services,” Vrolyk confirmed Sunday.