Religious leaders issue a new press release. They make public the health protocols followed closely in all places of worship. They reiterate their request made yesterday, still without a response from the government.
Last April, a group of religious leaders was formed in Quebec, to contribute in a concerted manner to the collective efforts toward a safe deconfinement. In this spirit, on 8 May 2020, these religious leaders wrote a letter to the Premier to present him a project for a protocol for deconfining places of worship. To this day, no acknowledgment of receipt was received for this letter.
Only on 28 May did a meeting take place with a group of public servants to examine the submitted protocols. Remarks and suggestions were made by the public servants to improve the protocols, and all of them were integrated in the protocols. From 22 June 2020 onward, activities progressively resumed in places of worship across Quebec.
Thousands of religious gatherings have since taken place. Today, religious leaders are making public the latest version of these protocols, dated 4 August 2020. These protocols are strictly adhered to in all places of worship in Quebec. It is not uncommon for health care personnel attending a religious service to express their appreciation and to underline that we are doing more than is required.
As a result, to this day, and to our knowledge, no outbreak has been registered in our milieus. In a letter dated 21 September 2020, Montreal public health director, Dr. Mylène Drouin, states: “There has been no outbreak signalled in Catholic places of worship in Montreal nor any outbreak in the places of worship of the other confessions.” (AECQ translation)
For the last few weeks, the government has been announcing that reconfinement measures will be targeted and specifically adapted to different sectors of activity. Following the decision to severely restrict activities in places of worship, announced on 20 September by the minister of health, many people have expressed their incomprehension, since no outbreak has been recorded and nothing justifies such measures.
In this context, religious leaders in Quebec ask the government to explain why it imposes such strict measures to activities in places of worship, while nothing justifies it. They reiterate their demands expressed yesterday: “that government authorities reclassify places of worship in the category of concert halls, cinemas and theaters, which would allow us to continue welcoming a maximum of 250 people in our places of worship, instead of being limited to 25 or 50 people”, while applying the protocols negotiated on 4 August 2020. They also demand that “a frank and open channel of communication be established quickly between them and government authorities.”
In the name of the members of the Quebec Interreligious Roundtable(1),
+ Christian Rodembourg
Bishop of Saint-Hyacinthe
President of the Quebec Assembly of Catholic Bishops
(1) The Quebec Interreligious Roundtable brings together representatives from the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, evangelical Churches, different Jewish traditions, different mosques, and the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism.