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More than 200 people attend Aylmer, Ont. church service days after charges laid

More than 200 people attended Sunday service at an Aylmer, Ont. church, days after charges were laid against several churchgoers from last weekend.

Police captured footage of Sunday service via drone but were not on site

At least 200 people were seen congregating indoors at the Church of God in Aylmer, Ont., on Sunday, days after charges were laid against the church as a corporation and parishioners. (Sara Jabakhanji/CBC)

More than 200 people attended Sunday service at an Aylmer, Ont. church, days after charges were laid against several churchgoers from last weekend.

The Church of God in Aylmer held an indoor service Sunday morning that far exceeded the 10-person cap at religious indoor gatherings under current provincewide orders.

Anywhere between 200-250 people were seen congregating indoors for the Sunday morning service, Aylmer police Chief Zvonko Horvat said.

The Sunday livestream posted to YouTube showed churchgoers not following physical distancing rules or wearing masks.

The church, as a corporation, has been charged with failing to comply with the Reopening Ontario Act, as a result.

Horvat told CBC News that police are continuing to gather evidence from the church's gatherings to put an end to the defiant church gatherings.

"Ultimately, what we're looking at is to get an order to shut the church down," Horvat said.

On Friday, a judge in a St. Thomas court found Pastor Henry Hildebrandt in contempt over last Sunday's indoor service but in a video posted to Twitter, Hildebrandt celebrated the ruling for not shuttering the church or issuing any fines as of yet. 

The next court hearing will be on May 13.

Churchgoers were seen congregating indoors and not following public health measures like physical distancing and mask-wearing at the Church of God on Sunday. (Church of God at Aylmer/YouTube)

Horvat said police were not on site Sunday morning but were able to gather "excellent" footage through a drone they had utilised to capture footage to use as evidence. 

Among those charged last week, MP Derek Sloan and MPP Randy Hillier, who both represent Kingston-area ridings as Independents, are expected to appear in Elgin County provincial offences court in June.

Eight others were also charged in relation to the service.

If found guilty, Sloan and Hillier could be ordered to pay up to $100,000 or spend up to a year in jail.  

There are currently 11 active COVID-19 cases in the town of Aylmer as of Friday, according to Southwestern Public Health.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sara Jabakhanji

Reporter/Editor

Sara Jabakhanji is a reporter with CBC News and graduate of Ryerson's School of Journalism. Sara has chased stories for the CBC across the province of Ontario in Toronto, Ottawa and is currently working with London, Ont. bureau. She was born in Damascus, Syria and immigrated to Canada with her family when she was eight years old. Sara can speak fluent Arabic and is working on improving her French. You can reach her at: sara.jabakhanji@cbc.ca

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