By The Canadian Press
STEINBACH, Man. — Mounties have ramped up enforcement at a Manitoba church that was slapped with a fine for holding a service last weekend that allegedly violated provincial COVID-19 health orders.
The Church of God Restoration in Steinbach posted videos on its Facebook page that appear to show the church’s empty, snow-covered parking lot, with RCMP officers positioned at its entrances and a long line of vehicles parked along the roadway.
In one video, Pastor Tobias Tissen addressed the people in the vehicles via a radio transmitter from a pulpit outside the church, and claimed the officers blocking the entrance were “blocking God.”
No one with the church could be reached for comment.
RCMP say that their officers were stationed at parking lot entrances to remind would-be churchgoers of public health rules, and warn them that attending a service would result in a fine.
They say most people heeded the warning, save for one man who continued on to the church property and was fined $1,296.
The province ordered churches to close earlier this month to deal with a surge in COVID-19 cases that has clogged the hospital system, saying people could only attend services virtually.
The church previously confirmed it was ticketed and fined $5,000 for breaking a provincial public health order last Sunday, and RCMP said there were well over 100 people inside the church at the time.
“What you all see this morning is not people recognizing the supremacy of God. Come on, if other stores can be essential and church is not essential, you’re saying that God is not supreme,” Tissen said from the pulpit in the Facebook video on Sunday.
RCMP reminded people Friday that participating in any type of large gathering is now a contravention of the public health orders, and it specifically mentioned worship services in the Steinbach area.
“Our goal is certainly not to hand out a bunch of tickets,” Steinbach Detachment Commander Harold Laninga said in the release.
It said Sunday the investigation is continuing and that more tickets are possible.
The Manitoba government said Sunday that officers would have been aware of the service, as well as reports of a drive-in church service on the weekend in Winnipeg, but that an update on enforcement action would not be available until Tuesday.