The Full Gospel Outreach Centre church in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan was levied a $14,000 fine in October. It was, at the time, the largest lockdown ticket issued, for failing to force the congregants attending services to wear masks.
The Full Gospel Outreach ministers to Prince Albert’s inner city residents, who are often homeless, substance addicted and suffering from extreme poverty. Part of the mission of the church involves a clothing bank, delivering meals and helping people escape the streets and the captivity of their vices. The church doesn’t have a lot of money and what they do have goes to the most needy.
But all that good work didn’t spare Full Gospel and their pastor, Vern Temple, the wrath of Prince Albert’s mayor, Greg Dionne. The fine was levied for singing without masks and failing to enforce COVID regulations after the church experienced a COVID-19 outbreak that may have spread to it from the local casino. Dionne told reporters that he wanted “strict consequences” for the struggling church, and wanted the those consequences to show that he was part of a “strong government.”
Dionne also called the enormous fine “appropriate.”
At the time, Rebel News hired Vern and the church a great lawyer, Sarah Miller from JSS Barristers, to help fight the lockdown ticket in court at no cost to them.
We started digging into what we suspected was a long-standing problem the mayor had with Full Gospel. After Vern was attacked by two women who held a knife to his throat in an attempted robbery in 2017, Dionne victim-blamed the pastor.
Full Gospel Outreach Centre’s downtown apartment building, located very close to the scene of the attempted robbery, recently came under stern criticism from Mayor Greg Dionne for allegedly providing safe harbour for the neighbourhood’s gangs and drug dealers.
Dionne said he would like to see the building demolished.
Now, thanks to access to information investigations, we know the police were pressured to charge the church. An email from Prince Albert Police Inspector Brent McDonald stated:
As you can imagine, our service is being challenged on responding to the non-compliance demonstrated at the event.
A further email from Medical Health Officer Dr. Khami Chokani read:
It looks like the pressure is to issue the tickets accordingly. Who is on call to issue?
Was the mayor directing the police to issue tickets to Vern? Were the police bending to political meddling from the mayor? And why was the chief medical officer directing police to go after a church and issue tickets? I think Prince Albert is a town full of bullies, and I want to put them in their place.
Sarah Miller, Vern’s lawyer, joins me to discuss the progress she is making fighting for Full Gospel Outreach.
If you would like to help Full Gospel Outreach and Pastor Vern Temple with their legal fees, so they can continue to use their limited resources to help the most vulnerable in Prince Albert, please donate today at www.FightTheFines.com.