Manitoba Justice investigating graduation ceremony at Winnipeg church

WINNIPEG — Manitoba Justice officials are investigating a graduation ceremony that took place at a Winnipeg church.

Over the weekend, photos circulated online of the event at Springs Church in which people appear to be gathered without masks.

The province confirmed on Wednesday that it has not issued any enforcement tickets in relation to this event, but the investigation is ongoing.

In a statement posted to Twitter, Justice Minister Cameron Friesen recognized the allegations that have been circulating on social media.

He said the province takes the situation seriously, noting there are consequences for those who defy the public health orders.

“At the same time, we remind Manitobans that there is an investigation underway, and it takes time to ensure that evidence is well-founded and documented.”

Leon Fontaine, senior pastor for Springs Church, released a statement on the graduation ceremony, saying that there are some “misunderstandings” around the drive-in grad ceremony and that the pictures were taken out of context.

He said members of the public were not put at any risk, noting the 18 students involved in the ceremony were in the same cohort throughout the school year and remained physically distanced.

“On the last day of classes, these same 18 students went into one of our TV studios with the doors closed and locked to the public, to shoot the commencement proceedings,” Fontaine said.

“This TV shoot was done for broadcast to our Drive-In parking lot.”

Fontaine added that it was a closed set and no members of the public were in the studio during the TV shoot.

The province confirmed to CTV News Winnipeg that evidence is being collected, interviews are taking place and officials are working to determine if charges will be laid. It noted that individuals and entities also have the right to respond to any allegations and to contest the charges in court.

The province said once it is done its investigation, it will provide an update on whether it took enforcement action in its weekly enforcement bulletin.

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