Nine tickets were handed out to churchgoers attending in-person services at Trinity Bible Chapel Sunday morning.
Waterloo Regional Police said officers from their newly implemented COVID Integrated Response Team (CIRT) were stopping attendees seen leaving the premises, and issuing tickets under the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA), which carry a fine of $750.
Officers are now able to hand out tickets thanks to recent changes in provincial legislation, allowing officers to stop an individual believed to be violating COVID-19 related orders.
The original provincial change to police powers allowed random stops of pedestrians or drivers, though Regional Police said they would not be doing random stops.
"We remain committed to working in partnership with Region of Waterloo bylaw to ensure compliance, as well as the health and safety of the community," said spokesperson Cherri Greeno in a statement.
Officers were not inside the building. "With any crowd management issue, we have to weigh and balance the health and safety of the public, as well as our officers," said Greeno.
On April 24, Trinity Bible Chapel associate pastor Will Schuurman posted a blog stating that churches should be allowed open during the pandemic and defended their "civil disobedience."
"When the government forbids what God commands or commands what God forbids, we must obey God, not men," he wrote. "Keeping in mind that God has commanded us to love thy neighbour, let me then ask you this question: What is more loving of neighbour—to open your church on Sunday morning or to close it?"
Schuurman also pointed to the fact that there were no "outbreak associated deaths" attributed to places of worship in 2020. However, places of worship have accounted for 2.7 per cent of workplace outbreaks in Waterloo Region.
More to come.
.@WRPSToday have confirmed members of their newly implemented COVID Integrated Response Team are stopping individuals and issuing tickets to those leaving Trinity Bible Chapel in Woolwich today. @570NEWS— Luke Schulz (@lukeontheradio) April 25, 2021