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Letter from Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to Pastors and Churches in Alberta

Recently I approached Premier Jason Kenny by letter assuring him that we were praying for him and the fact that many Christian leaders were supportive of his government. I enquired whether he would be open to producing a letter clearly stating his government’s position and the current impact on various faith groups. Out of a spirit of co-operation, we would then circulate this correspondence to other Christian leaders, particularly in Alberta. In a short time, Premier Kenny got back to me, remembering the National House of Prayer during his days with the federal government, and thanking me for the encouragement. His letter to me was very personable and he was encouraged to receive support in communicating with the faith community in the attached letter.

Premier of Alberta

Office of the Premier, 307 Legislature Building, Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2B6 Canada

May 25, 2021

Dear Pastors and Church Leaders:

I am writing to express my appreciation for your patience, compassion, and prayerful support as Alberta continuesf to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

I know this has been a long, hard journey, and Albertans are growing weary of the public health measures we have introduced to protect lives and livelihoods. From the beginning, we have tried hard to balance the need to safeguard vulnerable people from COVID-19 with a healthy respect for the civil liberties that all Albertans enjoy. I have stated many times that this is not a situation my colleagues and I anticipated dealilng with during our leadership. I never thought that I'd have to stand up and ask families not to see each other, ask businesses to close their doors, or ask churches and other places of worship to limit attendance.

Health restrictions, and blanket lockdowns in particular, have significant non-COVID-related health implications. They inhibit people's ability to earn a living and limit the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms. For these reasons, as I have consistently said, health restrictions should be a last and limited resort based on data and science, not a first and maximum policy approach in reaction to fear and ideology.

Throughout my career, I have strongly defended the constitutionally protected freedom of religion, and the freedom of worship that emanates from it. This right is fundamental and its curtailment should only ever be considered in a free and democratic society in exceptional circumstances, and must be demonstrably justified -- that is, in a way that is necessary, proportionate, and limited.

This has defined our government's approach to maintaining Canada's least stringent restrictions with respect to worship. In fact, Alberta has been one of the only provinces to allow places of worship to stay open for private devotions and for small group worship.

It is regrettable, but necessary, that our government must continue to restrict in=person congregational worship. We have been compelled to do so by the increasingly profound public health threat of COVID-19 and the arrival of new variants that are far more infectious than the original form of virus.

By placing restrictions on in-person worship, our government is not asking believers to deny their faith, and we would never do so. Rather, we are asking people of faith to demonstrate care for their broader community by doing their part to break the chain of transmission of this virus and save lives. Rev. Ray Matheson of First Alliance Church may have summarized this best in an article published by the Calgary Herald on May 12, 2021: "If the authorities were asking us to deny our faith or to go against the principles of Scripture, we would need to obey God rather than the government. This, however, has not been the case in the current situation. Health restrictions placed upon us still allow us to worship God and follow all the essentials of our faith."

The terrible reality is this: Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 2,100 Albertans have died of COVID-19. In the midst of the current wave, our province is recording its highest ever number of patients in intensive care units (ICUs). As of May 24, 2021, 565 people were being treated for COVID-19 in hospital, including 158 in intensive care. This includes younger adults with fewer underlying health conditions. Because of your relationships with the members of your own church families, I know you understand that these are more than just numbers -- they represent people at all stages of life facing long, difficult recoveries from illness, and loved ones grieving unimaginable losses.

With vaccinations picking up speed, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. All Albertans over the age of 12 years are now eligible to receive their first vaccine dose, and we are beginning to see declining COVID-19 case numbers. To date, more than 2.5 million vaccine doses have been administered. As the rate of vaccination increases and the rate of hospitalization from COVID-19 decreases, we will be able to safely reopen the province. As trusted spiritual and community leaders, you can help in this effort by encouraging members of your congregations to get vaccinated, and by sharing reputable resources about the vaccines with those who may be hesitant to do so.

Moving forward, Alberta's government will continue focusing health efforts on protecting the vulnerable and minimizing restrictions on the rest of the province. Over the next few weeks, that means more stringent health measures to stop out-of-control, variant-driven ICU admissions and getting vaccines administered as quickly as possible. That is how we put this pandemic and health restrictions behind us, once and for all.

Thank you for working with Alberta's government as we address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am grateful for your efforts to follow public measures and keep people of faith connected and safe. Your adherence to the public health restrictions has been one of the ways that communities of faith, throughout the pandemic, have demonstrated what it means to love your neighbour as yourself. You have my absolute assurance that we will relax these restrictions as soon as it is safe and prudent to do so.

God bless,

Hon Jason Kenney PC

Premier of Alberta

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