Charges to be laid after 'one of the largest services' held at Aylmer, Ont. church on Sunday
Aylmer police chief says they have identified several people and an investigation is ongoing
Aylmer police say they are investigating and will be pressing charges after "one of the largest services" was held at an Aylmer, Ont. church Sunday morning that has continually defied the province's COVID-19 rules.
The Church of God at Aylmer held an in-person Sunday service that was also live streamed, where dozens of people were seen congregating indoors while not wearing masks or following physical distancing protocol.
This comes after four people were charged on Tuesday when officers received a tip about a gathering taking place at the church. Police say upon attending, they found 18 people not following public health rules.
Under the current provincial order, indoor religious services are limited to a maximum of ten people and people must wear masks and follow social distancing rules indoors.
More than 100 people were seen in attendance for the Sunday morning service, Aylmer police Chief Zvonko Horvat told CBC News.
"As a result of the gathering today and in anticipation of emergency order breaches, we monitored a church service and observed a large number of participants who attended," Horvat said.
"This is probably one of the largest services that we've seen at the Church of God and although we don't have exact count, it would be in excess of 100 for sure."
MPP Randy Hillier and MP Derek Sloan were among those in attendance during Sunday's service and spoke alongside Pastor Henry Hildebrandt.
Kristen Nagle, a London, Ont. nurse who was fired after speaking out against lockdown measures and organizing anti-lockdown rallies also attended Sunday's service.
An anti-lockdown protest was held in Stratford, Ont. later Sunday where Hillier, Sloan and Nagle were also seen attending.
Horvat said Aylmer police have and will continue to take a "gradual" approach to educate and liaison with the church and churchgoers.
"We've done that, we've done that over the course of the last 13 months and there doesn't seem to be any will to abide by the current rules," he said. "We're at the stage right now where we have no other option, but to proceed with the charges with those who are identified."
Horvat said while this has a significant impact on the small community of Aylmer, police will continue to take an approach to educate those not abiding by COVID-19 rules.
"From my perspective, I hope and wish that people would understand the current situation that we were in however we can't control their actions," Horvat said.