Charge laid after church service with more than 100 people in Wheatley: police

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Old Colony Mennonite Church in Wheatley is shown in a file photo. (Elvis Nouemsi Njike/ Radio-Canada - image credit)
Old Colony Mennonite Church in Wheatley is shown in a file photo. (Elvis Nouemsi Njike/ Radio-Canada - image credit)

A Wheatley man has been charged following a church service on Sunday that had more than 100 people present, police say.

In a media release on Thursday, Chatham-Kent police said officers responded to a report of a "large gathering" at Old Colony Mennonite Church.

Officers saw 87 vehicles in the parking lot, then observed several adults and kids leave the church without masks on.

According to police, a church member confirmed there were 128 people attended the mass, as well as children present in classrooms.

Under the current provincial shutdown and stay-at-home order, religious gatherings have a limit of 10 people.

On Wednesday night, a 44-year-old Wheatley man was charged with failing to comply with a continued order under the the Reopening Ontario Act, police said.

Under the act, the minimum fine for hosting a gathering that violates capacity limits is $10,000. The maximum penalty is $100,000 and a year in jail.

Charges were laid in relation to gatherings at the same church twice in December.

"It is unfortunate that some people still choose to not comply with the law considering these laws are put into place for everyone's safety, including those who choose to break them," Chatham-Kent police chief Gary Conn said in a media release.

"This pandemic requires a concerted effort by all our citizens in order to abate and eventually eradicate."