On Wednesday, GraceLife Church was seized by Alberta government in an early morning police operation.
Church security cameras picked up the activity shortly after 6:00 a.m., at which time congregants tipped off Rebel News about the joint police/government seizure of the property. Rebel News had exclusive access to the church prior to Wednesday morning's events.
A private fencing company, private Paladin security, RCMP and Alberta Health Services executed a dawn raid on the Parkland County area church after a month-long staredown with the provincial government over the lockdown restrictions on places of worship.
GraceLife was first issued a closure order from the provincial health authority in January, after the congregation refused to comply with public health orders that limit places of worship to 15 per cent of fire code capacity, force congregants to wear masks, ban singing and instrument playing and require worshipers to social distance from each other. GraceLife says that the current health restrictions violate their constitutional right to practice their faith.
GraceLife Pastor James Coates garnered international attention after he turned himself in to Stony Plain RCMP, and was held for 35 days in maximum security provincial custody after being charged with violating public health orders. Pastor Coates was released after a deal was struck to eliminate bail conditions requiring him to follow the orders.
The church, as an entity, has also been charged with violating public health orders and faces trial in May.
Over the course of Wednesday, workers built two steel fences to encircle the church building. The internal fence was then wrapped with black tarp to obscure the church from the road. A police checkpoint was also set up at the entrance of the property.
Infrastructure was brought in on trucks to support the long-term occupation of the property, including portable toilets.
One of the steel fences along the west side of the southwest edge of the property was initially obstructing a driveway shared with a farmer next door, preventing him from accessing his own property. That fence was eventually moved.
Rebel News was on hand for the entire day to get the reaction of the congregants to their church being confiscated by the government, as well as the reaction of supporters who are gathering near the property, many of whom plan to remain until the church is returned.