UPDATE: GraceLife Church Pastor, James Coates, remains in custody following charges – UPDATED FEB 21, 2021

Parkland County, Alta. –  (Feb 21, 2021) Parkland RCMP and Alberta Health Services continued their investigation into the GraceLife Church this morning as a part of ongoing allegations into the church’s non-compliance with the Public Health Order. Observations were made that the church held a service beyond the designated capacity.

The investigation continues into this situation with the intention of determining, through consultation with AHS, the next course of action for the RCMP.

No further information will be provided to the media by the RCMP today.  When able, next week, an update will be provided.

BACKGROUND

Parkland County, Alberta – James Coates remains in custody following charges, a bail hearing in front of a justice, and a court appearance in front of a judge this morning.

On Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021 the RCMP, with AHS, attended the GraceLife Church to assess compliance in relation to conditions issued to the Pastor on Feb. 7. Observations were made that James Coates was not complying with his Undertaking release conditions, and the church was not in compliance with the Public Health Order.

GraceLife Church once again fails to comply with restrictions
GraceLife Church

On Feb. 16, James Coates turned himself in to the Parkland Detachment. He was charged in contravention of the Public Health Act (x2), and charged for failing to comply with a condition of his Undertaking, under the Criminal Code. Following a bail hearing before a Justice of the Peace, Coates was to be released on conditions. He remained in custody overnight after refusing to agree to those conditions. This morning in Stony Plain Provincial Court he continued to refuse to agree with those conditions and a Judge’s Order was issued compelling him to attend court on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021.

“We’ve been consistent in our approach of escalated levels of enforcement with Pastor Coates, and we were hopeful to resolve this issue in a different manner” said Inspector Mike Lokken. “The Pastor’s actions, and the subsequent effects those actions could have on the health and safety of citizens, dictated our response in this situation.”

Statement from Inspector Mike Lokken, Detachment Commander of Parkland RCMP Detachment:

 It has come to Parkland RCMP’s attention within the last week that a member of the GraceLife Church Administration has identified himself as a former RCMP officer.  We can confirm that Paul Claassen is a retired RCMP member as of October 2014.

Our response to the non compliance of the Church has been consistent with our overall RCMP strategy in the Province which is; education, an opportunity for compliance, and lastly, enforcement.  Parkland RCMP has managed the investigation into the GraceLife Church with absolutely no influence from any member of their administration or congregation, regardless of any past or present affiliation with our organization.

The RCMP has conducted all their interactions with the Church in an impartial, professional, and respectful manner.”



Background:

Update 1

Feb. 14, 2021

Parkland RCMP – GraceLife Church Update

Parkland County, Alta. – This morning the RCMP, along with AHS, attended the GraceLife Church to ensure that morning service was held in compliance with the following Public Health Order; the church cannot be at more than 15% capacity and people in attendance must physically distance. RCMP members on scene determined that the church did not comply with the restrictions.

Subsequently the RCMP are furthering their investigation into the actions of GraceLife Church and the church pastor, James Coates. A detailed media release regarding the outcome of the investigation is anticipated for release mid week.

“To be very clear, the RCMP’s objective is not to interrupt church services, prohibit services, nor deny peoples’ right to practice their religion – merely to ensure that public health restrictions are adhered to while doing so” says Inspector Mike Lokken, Detachment Commander of Parkland RCMP.

Background

Feb. 8, 2021

Parkland RCMP – Charges laid against GraceLife Church

Parkland County, Alta. – Earlier today, the RCMP swore a charge against James Coates, the Pastor of the GraceLife Church, in contravention of Section 73(1) of the Public Health Act, for being over capacity and failing to adhere to physical distancing requirements. Coates has been served an Undertaking with conditions and is to attend in Provincial Court in Stony Plain on March 31, 2021.

The RCMP can confirm that in December a violation ticket was issued to the Pastor, and on Feb. 7 the Pastor was arrested and released with a court appearance date.

Since early December the RCMP have been working with AHS in an ongoing investigation into the activities surrounding the non compliance of the church. AHS has maintained a position of being the lead investigating agency. On Feb. 7, the RCMP, along with the Public Health Inspector with AHS, attended the church and determined that the facility was over double the current restricted capacity level. As a matter of respect, the church proceedings were not interrupted by the RCMP, and Coates was cooperative with the RCMP following the end of the service.

“There are many different discussions and considerations at play in relation to the GraceLife Church and their non compliance” says Inspector Mike Lokken, Detachment Commander of Parkland RCMP. “We have ensured that the church is well aware of the conditions that they need to follow and they have been afforded repeated opportunities to comply. In collaboration with AHS, we have now followed up with escalated enforcement.”

Parkland RCMP



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