Winnipeg church charged with breaking COVID protocols over graduation ceremony

WINNIPEG — A Winnipeg church has been accused of breaking COVID-19 health orders by holding an indoor graduation ceremony.

The Manitoba government has issued a court summons to Springs Church over the event last month that saw high school graduates gather indoors for a ceremony broadcast to people sitting in cars outside the church.

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The church faces two counts of violating public health orders — holding an indoor gathering and failing to remind people to wear masks while indoors — the government said in a press release Tuesday.

The church did not return requests for comment. In a statement in May, church officials said the grad ceremony was a closed television shoot inside a studio with 18 students who had been together during the school year.

Springs Church launched a court challenge last December against the province's ban on gatherings, which at the time also forbade drive-in religious services. A judge rejected the church's request for an interim stay of enforcement of that rule until a full hearing could be held.

The government said enforcement officers issued 106 tickets in total last week, mostly stemming from gatherings in private homes or outdoors.

Health officials reported 116 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday and two deaths. It was the third consecutive day that new cases were below 200, after reaching 603 last month.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2021.

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