More charges laid after another church gathering in Wheatley

Old Colony Mennonite Church parking lot in Wheatley. Submitted photo. May 13, 2021.

Two charges have been laid in connection with a large gathering at the Old Colony Mennonite Church in Wheatley Thursday morning.

Chatham-Kent Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire did not have any more specifics as of the time of publication early Thursday afternoon but urged the public to call to report illegal gatherings if they see them.

“If people see congregations hosting large gatherings, we’re asking people to call it in,” said Shropshire. “We’re trying to work with people but at the end of the day you just can’t ignore the restrictions.”

You can report a concern by calling the municipal tip line at 519-360-1998 or by emailing Covid19enforcement@chatham-kent.ca.

A local resident who was driving by the church Thursday morning and noticed several vehicles in the church parking lot and submitted the photos below.

At this point, it is unclear who the charges were laid against. The new charges under the Reopening Ontario Act, which prohibits large gatherings, bring the total number of charges laid against a member of the Old Colony Mennonite Church to six at both churches in Wheatley and in Dresden. This is the first time two charges were reported in connection with one gathering. In all of the other alleged violations that were reported to media, one member was charged.

Shropshire couldn’t confirm if there was a service held at the Old Colony Mennonite Church in Dresden on Sunday or if any charges were laid there.

Last week, Shropshire reminded the public that there are increasing fines and penalties for those who continue to disregard the public health and safety rules, up to and including jail time. He said that should serve as a deterrent, if it hasn’t already.

“Whether it’s a church or a private business, we’re trying to make sure that people have the information up front,” said Shropshire. “It’s not like people don’t understand the demands or the requirements for people going to church or running a business, it’s just how do we do it safely.”