Hundreds pack Winnipeg church parking lot for drive-in service, breaking pandemic restrictions

Hundreds of cars packed the parking lot of Winnipeg’s Springs Church for a drive-in service Saturday evening, in spite of public health orders restricting group sizes and the province’s top doctor’s repeated calls to stay home.

Winnipeg police cruisers could be seen parked across the street from the mega church on Lagimodiere Boulevard, along with provincial enforcement officers.

Under the current public health restrictions, group sizes can’t exceed more than five people inside or outside. Churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship must be closed to the public, even drive-up or drive-thru services.

According to the Springs Church website, the drive-in church services are “government-approved,” but that isn’t accurate.

Hundreds of people were ushered into the Springs Church parking lot, although a recent public health order calls for all religious gatherings to cease to protect public safety. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

“Religious and cultural gatherings must close or be provided virtually only,” a provincial spokesperson said on Saturday.

Springs Church has another drive-in service scheduled for Sunday.

This comes a week after a Steinbach, Man., church and its leaders were fined for holding an in-person gathering that broke the same public health order.

The Church of God just south of the city is promoting another in-person church service for Sunday after last week’s service brought in well over 100 people, the RCMP said.

CBC News reached out to Springs Church for comment, but leadership didn’t respond in time for deadline.

A spokesperson from the province didn’t say if any fines or warnings were handed out at Springs Church. Information on enforcement will be provided on Tuesday at the weekly update. 

WATCH | Dr. Roussin warns against large, in-person faith-based gatherings

Dr. Brent Roussin urged Manitobans who are taking part in faith-based gatherings to stay home in an effort to protect the community from COVID-19. 1:08