With COVID cases on the rise, Provincial leaders in Manitoba and parts of Ontario have chosen to enter into a strict lockdown for the next month, closing all non-essential business, which includes churches and houses of worship.
With 8,878 total cases, 114 deaths and a total provincial population of 1.4 million people, all of Manitoba is moving to “Level Red” Thursday, which leaves only essential businesses like grocery stores open at 25% capacity. Churches may only be open virtually, even in locations where there hasn’t been a case of COVID within 100 miles. Failure to comply with the mandatory church closures can result in personal fines of up to $1296 for individuals and $5000 for the churches.
The city of Toronto in the province of Ontario and Peel region is likewise entering the dreaded “red Zone” which allows churches to remain open, but only at 30% capacity, and only while wearing masks and social distancing the entire time. Names and phone numbers of all attendees must be kept and social gatherings after the service of more than 10 people is strictly prohibited.
Canadian Police and RCMP have historically not responded well to Churches that choose to stay open or flout the rules, such as when Pastor Henry Hildebrandt held drive-in services where all church members stayed in their cars the entire time with windows rolled up and the message was piped through their car stereos via FM transmitters. This was viewed as outrageously unsafe and dangerous and the church was harassed mercilessly by police services. Any resistance is sure to be met with swift crackdowns.
Given the general all-around attitude of Canadians towards legislative authorities, expect few pastors, if any, to fight back and refuse to close their church services in Manitoba, but rather the vast majority will comply with government orders, even if, again, there hasn’t been a COVID case within 100 miles.
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