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Trial begins for Alberta pastor accused of violating COVID-19 health orders


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EDMONTON — An inspector with Alberta Health Services says she observed multiple risky behaviours at an Edmonton-area church led by a pastor accused of not following public-health orders.

Janine Hanrahan testified today at the start of a trial for James Coates of GraceLife Church.

Coates faces one charge of violating the Public Health Act.

The pastor spent a month in the Edmonton Remand Centre for violating a bail condition not to hold church services that officials have said ignored measures on capacity limits, physical distancing and masking.

He was released March 22 after pleading guilty and was fined $1,500.

Hanrahan testified that Alberta Health Services kept receiving complaints from the public, and she went in for her first inspection at the church in Stony Plain, Alta., in July 2020.

She said that on three separate inspections, dozens of congregants were inside the building without masks and were within less than two-metres of one another.

Hanrahan said during one inspection, she heard the pastor telling an RCMP officer that Alberta’s chief medical officer was a dictator and Premier Jason Kenney was hiding behind her.

The trial in Edmonton provincial court is expected to last three to four days.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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