Alberta Court Rules Pastor Charged With Violating COVID-19 Orders to Remain Jailed Until Trial

March 5, 2021 Updated: March 8, 2021

An Alberta court has ruled that a pastor who defied COVID-19 restrictions must remain in jail for eight weeks as he waits for his trial.

Pastor James Coates of Edmonton’s GraceLife church was charged with one count of breaking the Public Health Act after continuing to hold Sunday services despite a fine to the church and an order to close down.

Coates has been detained at the Edmonton Remand Centre since Feb. 16, after he refused to sign a bail condition (pdf) to abide by provincial health orders.

The Queen’s Bench Justice Peter Michalyshyn made the decision on Friday that Coates must remain in jail before his trial, which is set to take place from May 3 to 5, 2021, in the Alberta Provincial Court in Stony Plain.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a Calgary-based legal charity, which will be representing Coates and GraceLife Church in court, stated in a news release that it had filed an appeal to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, to release Coates from jail before the scheduled trial.

“A trial set eight weeks down the road was too long for an innocent Pastor to be in jail. Pastor Coates is a peaceful Christian minister. He should never have been required to violate his conscience and effectively stop pastoring his church as a condition to be released,” said John Carpay, lawyer and president of the Justice Centre.

“In every way this was a violation of Pastor Coates’ Charter rights and freedoms,” Carpay said. “Charter freedoms do not disappear because the government declares regular church services to be outlawed while allowing hundreds of people to fill their local Walmarts.”