With Christmas upon us, a number of Canadians will not be able to attend a church service to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and those who can attend might choose not to do so due to caps on attendance or fears of contracting COVID-19.
All provinces and territories in Canada except Saskatchewan are imposing restrictions on places of worship, with at least Nunavut having decided on Dec. 24 to close churches altogether due to eight active cases.
“With introductions of COVID-19 in multiple communities over the past week, we must move to the strictest public health restrictions across the entire territory,” Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, said in a statement.
Quebec allows places of worship to operate at a higher capacity than some provinces, but it is the only one to require a vaccine passport to enter.
Places of worship are allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity with a maximum occupancy of 250 people, who must remain seated.
The Christmas Eve mass in the famous Saint Joseph’s Oratory and the Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral in Montreal will still take place, but other parts of the province have chosen to forego church services altogether.
The diocese of the city of Quebec has cancelled all collective celebrations until Jan. 10, other than funerals.
“I’m aware it will be very disappointing to not congregate in the church this year to celebrate Christmas and the New Year, but I consider it our duty to participate in the collective effort to avoid increasing the spread of the coronavirus,” the head of the diocese, Cardinal Gérald C. Lacroix, said in a statement.
This type of situation across Canada since the onset of the pandemic is leaving some faith groups reflecting on the state of religious rights in the country.
“Banning people from attending Christmas church services is a cruel and repressive move that I can’t believe is actually happening in a democratic nation like Canada,” says Jack Fonseca, political operations director for the pro-life group Campaign Life Coalition.
While authorities are taking a top-down approach in attempting to manage the different sectors of society, some religious adherents feel that the very nature of their existence is being curtailed.
“Our civil liberties and constitutional rights are being attacked, and those of us who refuse the abortion-tainted COVID injections are being denied the right to worship God and to receive the sacraments,” says Fonseca.
Fetal cell lines are used in various stages of vaccine development, and this is cited by some persons of faith as grounds to reject vaccination.
Across the Country
In British Columbia, if participants are not all vaccinated, worship services are limited to 50 percent seating capacity, including choirs. Otherwise there are no capacity limits.
In Alberta, capacity is limited to a third of the fire code occupancy.
Saskatchewan does not have any capacity or vaccination status limitations on places of worship.
In Manitoba, capacity is at 50 percent with proof of vaccination, or 25 percent capacity or a total of 25 people, whichever is lower, when proof of vaccination is not required.
For Ontario, capacity is limited to allow physical distancing of 2 metres between people of different households, but that limit is lifted if vaccination can be verified.
In New Brunswick, where proof of vaccination is not required, capacity is at 50 percent capacity under the fire code.
In Nova Scotia, faith gatherings are capped at 25 percent capacity and up to 50 people.
For Prince Edward Island, new temporary measures came into effect on the morning of Dec. 24 and will last until Jan. 8. Worship services are limited to a maximum of 50 attendees and up to 50 percent in capacity in venue.
In Newfoundland Labrador, capacity is at 100 people or 50 percent (whichever is less) if proof of vaccination can be verified, and at 25 percent if it isn’t.
In the Northwestern Territories, all non-household gatherings are capped at 25 people.
In the Yukon, all indoor organized gatherings are capped at 50 percent of the venue capacity.