Four people in Aylmer have been charged, with more to come, after the latest gathering at the Church of God at Aylmer, a house of worship that’s become known for its pervasive defiance of Ontario emergency health orders during the pandemic.
Officers with the Aylmer Police Service visited the church on Tuesday night after a tip from the public about a gathering inside the church.
Police allege 18 people who weren’t wearing masks or physically distancing were taking part in an organized event.
Aylmer police Chief Zvonko Horvat told CBC News on Wednesday that the four were charged for failing to comply with the province’s emergency health orders.
“We’re also looking at identifying others and there will likely be more charges laid as a result of yesterday’s incident,” he said.
CBC News has reached out to the church and their lawyer for comment.
Since the pandemic began early in 2020, the church has repeatedly been in the media spotlight for its rebellious stance against provincial pandemic orders.
Pastor Henry Hildebrandt has made headlines for his stance on the province’s strict rules against communal gatherings.
Dozens of parishioners and church leaders were fined after the church welcomed worshipers into its sanctuary, allowing them to gather on two separate occasions in January to sing together without masks and without observing the two-metre distance recommended by health authorities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The church was served with a restraining order from the Ministry of the Attorney General in February, ordering it to abide by the Reopening Ontario Act.
Horvat said Wednesday his officers have been trying to take a measured approach in dealing with the church’s defiance, but it doesn’t seem to be working.
“The fact of the matter is we’ve dealt with that particular group and they seem to be defiant in obeying emergency measures,” he said. “They’re just not getting the message.
“You think that perhaps a warning would suffice and they would comply, but they don’t so the officers are put in the position where they don’t have any other choice but to charge,” said Horvat.
“We can’t be taking these things lightly.”