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Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of TorontoPatrick Craine / LifeSiteNews

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TORONTO, Canada, March 9, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Archbishop of Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins has called out Ontario’s government for permitting places like liquor stores and malls to operate at 25 percent capacity while keeping places of worship at a hard cap of only 10 people.

“I do not believe that our elected officials and medical officers of health consciously intend to suppress religious freedom,” Collins conceded in a March 5 call to action letter urging the faithful to write Premier Doug Ford and their Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) to demand equal treatment.

“I realize that they are in an extremely difficult position. We do, however, ask to be treated equitably. In recent days, it is becoming more difficult to believe that is happening,” Collins added.

Today, many regions in Ontario that have been previously locked down with stay-at-home orders, including Toronto and Peel Region, moved into the “grey” zone. This allows many businesses that have been closed since November to finally open their doors, but with limits on how many people can enter. Essential stores have a 50 percent capacity limit, while non-essential stores have a 25 percent limit.

Cardinal Collins related in his letter to the faithful the extent of the discrimination.

“A few days ago, a movie scout contacted one of our churches to inquire whether the basement hall could be used to feed a crew of 50 people. ‘We have dispensation from the province and strict protocols will be enforced.’ Later in the week, the priest presided at a funeral in the same church, limited to 10 people inside (including himself).”

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PETITION UPDATE (3/22/2021)

Pastor James Coates has been freed!

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, the legal counsel which has been representing Pastor Coates, just issued a statement saying that Alberta's Crown Prosecutors have decided to drop all but one charge against Pastor Coates, paving the way for him to be released soon.

This is a great victory, God be praised!

Please READ LifeSiteNews' latest article on this latest and unexpected turn of events for Pastor Coates.

While Pastor Coates will still have to stand trial for the one remaining charge in May, he will at least be free to prepare for the hearings, and to celebrate Easter with his family and congregation.

Thank you for taking part in this campaign advocating for Pastor Coates' release!

Of course, with a trial still pending, he's not out of the woods, yet. But, this is a gigantic step in the right direction.

During his trial, we will keep you updated as to his status and we will continue to support Pastor Coates.

We will also keep fighting to ensure that Canadian people of faith like him are never persecuted for exercising their right to worship freely.

Until the trial finishes, please continue to SIGN and SHARE this petition in solidarity with Pastor Coates. Thank you!

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PETITION UPDATE (2/24/2021) - 

There have been two important, recent updates to the ongoing imprisonment of Pastor James Coates in Alberta, Canada.

First, Alberta's Premier, Jason Kenney has spoken out about Pastor Coates' incarceration.

Please READ LifeSiteNews' article about Premier Kenney's intervention, here: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/alberta-premier-who-jailed-christian-pastor-claims-he-is-protecting-fundamental-freedoms-of-religion

And second, Pastor Coates' wife addressed a crowd of supporters at the jail in which her husband is being held, saying in part:

"People keep asking us what can you do for us? Open your churches. Open your churches! Take a stand for the Lord Jesus Christ and take a stand for the people! Love them, open the doors, that’s what we need to do right now."

To read about Mrs. Coates visit to see her husband at the Edmonton Remand Center and her full remarks, please CLICK on the following news article from LifeSiteNews: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/wife-of-jailed-candadian-pastor-tells-supporters-the-best-way-to-protest-is-to-open-your-churches

Then, please SIGN and SHARE this important petition. Thank you!

___________________________________________________________________

Pastor James Coates of Grace Life Church in Alberta, Canada has been ARRESTED for refusing to comply with extreme and likely unconstitutional government Covid regulations that ban people from gathering to worship in their church of choice.

You read that right: Even churches aren’t exempt from Trudeau Liberals’ all-out attack on peoples' freedoms in the wake of this pandemic.

But, Pastor Coates needs to be released immediately, and MPs must take steps to rein-in the extreme Covid regulations which provincial governments are using as an excuse to trample on essential freedoms.

Please SIGN and SHARE this petition and STAND WITH PASTOR COATES.

Send a strong message to Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau and Justice Minister Lametti, as well as to all Members of Parliament and to Canadian Provincial Premiers, that this CANNOT stand.

Some government officials are hoping to make examples out of faith leaders like Pastor Coates, who refuse to comply with unreasonable government demands to close-off places of worship to their own congregations.

That's why he remains in custody to this day.

But, no Canadian should ever face jail time for exercising their God-given, Charter-guaranteed rights, and action MUST be taken.

Please SIGN and SHARE this urgent petition.

NB: YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE FROM CANADA TO SIGN THIS PETITION.

Pastor Coates, who leads Grace Life Church in Edmonton, Alberta, originally suspended in-person services and church gatherings in good faith and out of concern for his congregants after Trudeau’s government first introduced Covid restrictions last spring.

However, the church reopened over the summer when it became clear that Trudeau’s shutdowns were here to stay, and that congregants would be indefinitely limited in their worship size or again banned from in-person worship altogether under their guidelines.

After Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, enacted new restrictions in November that cap all faith-based gatherings at 15% of building capacity (a major blow to churches that wish to resume worship for their members), Pastor Coates kept Grace Life’s doors open to anyone and everyone who wished to proceed with normal practice of their faith.

However, this simple exercising of congregants’ Charter rights was met not only with governmental resistance, but an unreasonably disproportionate legal response.

Pastor Coates was arrested and then quickly released on February 7th for practicing his faith alongside congregants, and arrested AGAIN on February 16th for the same reason.

Pastor Coates remains in custody today for refusing to allow Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and his health officer Deena Hinshaw to infringe upon his congregants’ civil liberties any further.

Please SIGN and SHARE this petition which calls for the release of Pastor Coates, and asks Canada's MPs to take action to ensure that Canadian people of faith, like him, are NEVER persecuted for exercising their right to worship freely.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

'Alberta govt jails pastor for holding COVID-non-compliant worship services' - 
https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/alberta-govt-jails-pastor-for-holding-covid-non-compliant-worship-services

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“Which of these do we consider more essential?” he asked.

The Cardinals said the difference in treatment “makes no sense.”

“The province has relaxed restrictions in Grey (Lockdown) regions, with retailers permitted to operate at 25 per cent capacity. Yet places of worship, regardless of whether they seat 100 or 1,000 people, must remain at a hard cap of 10 people. Next week, a funeral at St. Michael’s Cathedral (capacity 1,500) will be capped at 10 people, while around the corner dozens can enter the local liquor store and thousands will visit the Eaton Centre,” he said.

Collins called on the faithful to contact the government and demand change.

“It is now appropriate for us to respectfully amplify our concerns. I am asking you to take two minutes to write to your Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP). A copy of your letter will also be shared with Premier Ford,” he said, linking to a website called A Place to Worship that was created by the Archdiocese of Toronto as a platform from which people can lodge their complaints.

“I encourage all of you, whether you are in the Grey Zone (Toronto and Peel Regions as of March 8) or an area where churches can open at greater, but still greatly limited capacity, to respectfully request that any restrictions for places of worship use a percentage of capacity as opposed to an arbitrary number.”

The Cardinal pointed out that the campaign was an “interfaith initiative” with participation from various faith communities.

“We are still in the midst of fighting a pandemic and we must be prudent in our actions. Our strict WorshipSafe protocols in our churches have proven to be effective. It’s time to address the growing inequities facing our faith communities,” he wrote in his letter.

Cardinal Collins joins Archbishop of Quebec Cardinal Gérald Lacroix who criticized his province’s government for reopening movie theaters and allowing them to accommodate up to 250 people, while keeping churches confined to the 10-person limit.

Lacroix said in a Feb. 19 message posted to the archdiocese’s website that believers “cannot understand why access to their places of worship remains limited to 10 people in the red zone while cinemas can accommodate up to 250 people.”

Lacroix pointed out how he had previously asked the faithful to support measures put in place by the Quebec authorities in early January that banned all gatherings, including inside churches, across the province. Those measures were later modified that same month to allow a maximum of 10 people for religious gatherings after various religious groups objected.

“Today, it is more difficult for me to express my solidarity with the announced decisions, because they appear to me to be unreasonable and unfair towards the communities of faith,” the Cardinal said, pointing out that the “double standard” is obvious to many people.

“How do we explain the fact that a family going through a bereavement is thus limited to accompany a loved one to church and offer him a Christian funeral when, sometimes in the same neighborhood, it is possible to gather 250 in a cinema,” he said.

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