Premier of Canadian Province Arresting Pastors Breaks Dozens of COVID Orders in One Night

While authorities in Alberta, Canada, continue to arrest pastors for failing to comply with pandemic health orders, the province’s premier broke dozens of his own mandates in just one evening.

“I truly regret that,” Premier Jason Kenney said in a statement to reporters Monday after clandestine photos taken June 1 showed the politician dining with fellow provincial leaders and other guests on a rooftop terrace in Edmonton, the hometown of Pastor James Coates, who was jailed for more than a month for breaking COVID guidelines. “I take full responsibility.”

Kenney’s social event with Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Finance Minister Travis Toews, Government House Leader Jason Nixon, and others came just days after Alberta law enforcement officers arrested a third pastor, Tim Stephens, who leads Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary.

Stephens was arrested for presiding over a Sunday worship service that “did not comply with public health orders, including masking, physical distancing, and attendance limits,” police said in a mid-May statement.

Earlier in the month, officials arrested Pastor Artur Pawlowski and his brother, David, who were charged with organizing and attending “an illegal in-person gathering” that violated COVID restrictions.

Police said they detained the two men because they “chose to ignore” pandemic mandates.

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Coates, who leads GraceLife Church, was jailed for 35 days after he held worship services that violated attendance caps, social distancing regulations, and masking requirements put in place by Albertan health officials.

On Monday, despite his time behind bars, Provincial court Judge Robert Shaigec told Coates his religious freedoms were not “reasonably threatened in more than in an insubstantial way.”

The judge went on to say the preacher “chose to remain in jail” and could have easily been released had he simply agreed to stop leading worship services and restricted his congregation to only 15% of the facility’s total occupational capacity, orders Coates said violated his conscience as a pastor.

Kenney, who has overseen these arrests, said Monday he has “tried hard to observe the public health rules” but admitted he hasn’t “always done that perfectly.”

While he initially claimed his June 1 dinner was “fully rule-compliant,” he admitted this week that simply was not the case.

“We have to set a higher example, a higher threshold for conduct,” Kenney said. “And so I want sincerely to apologize to my colleagues and to Albertans for letting you down.”

A fact check by the Western Standard found Kenney violated a total of 24 pandemic rules and guidelines over the course of his dinner.

“In total,” the outlet reported, “this fact check finds that even using the premier’s own defense, Kenney and his colleagues violated eight of its government’s guidelines and 16 of their legally binding regulations.”

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