Part of the Crowd at Sunday’s GraceLife Church demonstration southwest of Edmonton (Photo: Screenshot of Facebook video).

Several hundred mostly maskless protesters packed the rural road in front of GraceLife Church southwest of Edmonton Sunday to protest against the closing last Wednesday of the Edmonton-area church by Alberta Health Services and the RCMP.

Catcalling police, vandalizing the car of the chief of the nearby Enoch Cree Nation, and tearing down part of a fence erected to seal off the church after weeks of defiance of COVID-19 restrictions, many in the large crowd behaved in a fashion that could be fairly described as unchristian.

Demonstrators pull down a fence outside GraceLife Church Sunday (Photo: Screenshot of Facebook video).

Participants in the demonstration, which also gave the appearance of being a COVID-19 super-spreader event, included a caravan of opponents of pandemic restrictions from Calgary.

But judging from a statement sent to media by lawyers for the church – which appears from its actions and commentary to be Protestant, non-denominational, evangelical, socially conservative, conspiracy-minded, politically activist and right-wing in political orientation – nobody from the congregation was there.

Indeed, according to the statement from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, the legal advocacy organization associated with social conservative causes run by Premier Jason Kenney’s longtime friend John Carpay, while “GraceLife church appreciates the public outpouring of support to fully open churches in Alberta,” its “congregants were not at the protest that occurred on Sunday, April 11, 2021 near the church’s facility.” (Emphasis added.)

“GraceLife church has no control of our church or grounds at this time,” the statement said, washing the church’s hands of the matter in a manner worthy of Pontius Pilate. “The church grounds are fully under the responsibility and control of the RCMP and Alberta Health Services.”

Nevertheless, in a statement that has been on the church website for weeks, the church has publicly argued that “having engaged in an immense amount of research” it fears “COVID-19 Is being used to fundamentally alter society and strip us all of our civil liberties.”

“By the time the so-called ‘pandemic’ is over, if it is ever permitted to be over, Albertans will be utterly reliant on government, instead of free, prosperous, and independent,” the statement says.

The church’s pastor, James Coates, famously spent more than a month in jail by refusing to agree to the bail terms a provincial court judge appeared anxious to grant him. Right-wing media on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border have had a field day with this, portraying it as religious persecution.

Enoch Cree Nation Chief William “Billy” Morin (Photo: Enoch Cree Nation).

A news release from the First Nation yesterday said one protester vandalized Chief William “Billy” Morin’s vehicle when he tried to stop demonstrators parking on Enoch Cree land, and another attempted to assault him.

“This incident demonstrates the need for more public understanding and recognition of First Nations sovereignty and treaty rights,” Chief Morin said. The First Nation will place a checkpoint on its southern border for the next two weeks, he said.

Alert readers will recall how just before the pandemic struck in early 2020, Canadian Conservative political parties and their supporters were convulsed with fury at the thought of blockades in support of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation’s objections to Coastal GasLink Pipeline’s plans to build on their traditional territory in northwestern British Columbia.

Conservative politicians were infuriated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apparent reluctance to get the RCMP to start busting heads immediately at sympathetic demonstrations that broke out along rail lines across Canada, claiming they would soon bring the national economy to its knees.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

When one such demonstration blocked a rails near the Enoch Nation for a few hours it became one of the justifications for the United Conservative Party’s draconian and likely unconstitutional legislation banning public protests on “critical infrastructure” – basically defined as anything the UCP says it is – which has yet to be tested in the courts.

Well, nobody can claim a shuttered church on a rural road in central Alberta is critical infrastructure – except, as it happens, practically all those Alberta Conservatives who were in a state of outrage at the demonstrations a year ago.

Indeed, you’d almost think from listening to Mr. Kenney that nothing could be more critical than a church!

For whatever reasons, Alberta politicians and police now seem uncharacteristically solicitous of the rights of the COVID-denying protesters.

Premier Kenney, rather plaintively, boasted on Saturday that Alberta does less to restrict worship services to control the spread of COVID-19 than any other province. In addition, he is allowing more than a quarter of his caucus to publicly oppose any measures to control the spread of the pandemic, which naturally encourages protesters like yesterday’s crowd, whoever its participants may have been.

Former Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Derek Sloan at GraceLife Church last week (Photo: Screenshot of Twitter video).

Unsavoury right-wing characters are also tempted to make pilgrimages to the church. People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier is scheduled to be in Edmonton today to pose for a selfie. Former Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Derek Sloan, kicked out of the federal party by Leader Erin O’Toole for a multitude of sins in January, had his picture taken there last week. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Kenney is already suggesting the province will be able to reopen in June, a risky strategy that could propel Alberta into another premature reopening and a fourth wave of COVID-19.

The RCMP issued a long statement yesterday emphasizing its respect for the rights of the GraceLife protesters, despite their apparent willingness to ignore COVID-19 restrictions and other laws. “The RCMP will use only the level of intervention necessary to ensure the safety of all citizens and to maintain peace, order, and security,” the Mounties promised.

For some reason, we will likely not hear the same demands for police to respond swiftly and violently that were common in February 2020.

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  1. Nothing is quite as it seems in this Socon fun house of mirrors.

    First of all you are correct, here in Alberta the restrictions on religious gatherings are actually much less stringent than elsewhere. I suspect a major reason this crowd of martyrs looking for a cause are so vocal here is because they expect a more sympathetic reception.

    Second, I wonder if our Premier Kenney is reflecting on how hard he has tried to court, even pander to, the Solon crowd now that they seem to have turned on him. His reckoning seems to have arrived also.

    Third, it seems like a motley crew of political exiles from more mainstream conservative parties that showed up to bolster whoever was there with Mr. Bernier and Mr. Sloan. I suppose they are desperate to get whatever publicity they can get.

    Lastly, the local RCMP have been carefully tracking who was going there for at least the a month, since the church started so blatantly flouting the restrictions. I am sure the RCMP will come to solid conclusions as to whether the people there today were part of the congregation, despite the Calgary lawyer’s attempt to distance this from them.

  2. What would Jesus do? That question has been asked before. It applies to the present situation. Would Jesus endorse putting other people’s lives at risk? I don’t think so. Also, the UCP has done a botch job with their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in Alberta. Very much so that Alberta happens to have the greatest per capita rate of citizens with Covid-19 in the entire country. What will the UCP do when things get worse? We also see people claiming their Charter rights are being infringed upon, but they don’t realize that the Charter does not give leeway to put people’s lives in jeopardy. There are also individuals who think Covid-19 isn’t real. Do they want to find out the hard way? The UCP cannot be commended for how they are dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic in Alberta.

  3. Grace Church sounds a lot like the Fraser Institute. I wonder if they release school rankings every year and media bias reports.

    “Nevertheless, in a statement that has been on the church website for weeks, the church has publicly argued that ‘having engaged in an immense amount of research” it fears “COVID-19 Is being used to fundamentally alter society and strip us all of our civil liberties.’

    ‘By the time the so-called ‘pandemic’ is over, if it is ever permitted to be over, Albertans will be utterly reliant on government, instead of free, prosperous, and independent,’ the statement says.”

  4. This event is more than a little disturbing, in fact, I am quite disgusted by those folks. They should all, every one of them, be severely punished. This ia anarchy. These people don’t deserve to live here.

  5. Monsieur le Kenney’s past statements urging Albertans to behave like a herd of buffalo have finally come to pass. These individuals, acting with their collective buffalo brains, have decided to Stampede.

    As for the claim that no church members were involved in the borderline rioting, why did one of the news outlets interview a woman at the fences outside the church on Sunday, who claimed to be a congregant?

    I guess the protestors will never have to experience kettling, like at the G20 in Toronto in 2010. That was the work of Stephen Harper’s government, of which Jason Kenney was a member. Harper was busy on the weekend posting photos of himself on the internet, getting the Covid vaccine.

    Kettling is also aptly called coralling, as in herd animals. Buffalo are herd animals.

  6. In an effort to draw attention away from its own ineptitude in quelling the GraceLife fiasco, the UCP leader held a press conference this morning to reannounce an announcement from last week about vaccinations bring available. This reannouncement was the same as last week’s announcement, with nothing new. It announced yet again that *UCP-brand* immunity can be achieved immediately with one dose of a two-part vaccine, or by getting Covid. (I wonder what scientists say.) Also, please do not ask what partial immunity by 64 percent of Alberta’s adults means with regard to the new variants, especially P1. Math is hard, especially fractions of fractions. Please do not ask how children, who are not part of the vaccination plan, will be impacted. More fractions! Thank you. Carry on. This message has already self-destructed five minutes ago.

  7. Here, let me run this through my secret UCP-decoder ring:

    “GraceLife church appreciates the public outpouring of support to fully open churches in Alberta…”

    Oh, Alberta, you have no idea how appreciative they are! Let me explain:

    “Alberta Health Services has stopped pursuing legal action against a small town café for defying the province’s public health orders — and has even covered the owner’s legal fees.”

    That’s right. The UCP government authorized the payment of legal fees to someone who was charged with breaking the public health orders at the time. Subsequently the public health orders changed, so we as Albertans picked up the tab.

    Remember when the UCP changed legislation so that new laws could be enforced retroactively? This meant that a person who had not broken a law, as the law stood in the past, could be charged in the future for a law they did not break in the past, based on a future changed law. It looks like Alberta’s government has set a precedent of paying the legal fees for those charged with breaking the law in the past when the law was changed in the future.

    It’s Kenney in Wonderland. In this topsy-turvy world, do not feel too sorry for the flock at GraceLife. An outpouring of support is likely in their future. There is precedent. Average Albertans will pay for this. Now let’s get back to the upside-down tea party on the ceiling. I hear Maxine Bernier has invited himself.

  8. Premier Crying & Screaming Midget has spent too much of the last year’s precious time downplaying the effect of the pandemic, going so far to echo the usual conspiratorial beliefs that COVID 19 is no more than a mere flu. Now, that Kenney has decided to act like an adult (for a change) he is doing the responsible thing in the face of the crazies that he pandered to only a few months ago.

    Maxim Bernier, Derek Sloan, and Kevin J. Johnson have come to Alberta to practise their grift and stoke the embers of discontent into a great bonfire of the vanities. Kenney’s savage lust for power and his relentless pursuit of his ideological fetishes have reaped a bitter harvest.

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