EDMONTON -- Police have charged the pastor of a church west of Edmonton after the church opened for two weekends in a row after a public health order was issued for its closure.

According to RCMP, a charge was sworn against James Coates, the pastor of GraceLife Church, in contravention of the Public Health Act.

A closure order from Alberta Health Services was issued on Jan. 29 after an inspector found that nearly 300 people had attended service the previous weekend, exceeding current rules allowing 15 per cent of total capacity.

The inspector also observed staff and congregation members were seen without masks and failed to physical distance.

Police and health inspectors have attended the Sunday services held in the two weeks since the closure order was issued, and said similar violations were observed. Police said on Feb. 7, the facility was over double the current restricted capacity level.

A spokesperson for RCMP said Mounties have been working with AHS in an ongoing investigation into the activities surrounding the non-compliance of the church.

“There are many different discussions and considerations at play in relation to the Grace Life Church and their non compliance,” said Insp. Mike Lokken, detachment commander of Parkland RCMP. “We have ensured that the church is well aware of the conditions that they need to follow and they have been afforded repeated opportunities to comply. In collaboration with AHS, we have now followed up with escalated enforcement.”

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw addressed the situation on Monday during her daily update.

"I want to reinforce these measures are mandatory not optional, and that in Alberta we have made great efforts to make sure that faith communities can continue to meet in a safe way. Those that are not following current restrictions are breaking the law."