Enforcement officers are looking into instances where groups gathered in person to worship over the weekend, including a church that had some congregants attend a rally in Steinbach a week earlier.
Dr. Brent Roussin says over the weekend, some worship facilities violated public health orders by holding in-person gatherings.
"I have had reports of various faith-based organizations that have met in person over the weekend," Roussin says.
RCMP Manitoba visited in-person worship gatherings over the weekend. One of these churches visited was The Church of God Restoration, a Manitoban group based out of a movement from Ohio, located off of Highway 12, approximately 14 kilometres south of Steinbach.
"At this point, we have enforcement officers looking into it, the possibility of enforcement at this time," Roussin says.
RCMP Manitoba says officers arrived at the church on Sunday at 8:35 a.m. after receiving a report of a gathering and spoke with a representative from the church.
"It is believed there were well over 100 people inside the church, and the officers had to balance police and public safety when determining a response. Anytime there is a large crowd, we have to take into account the safety of everyone, including our officers, and these concerns are also heightened with the addition of COVID-19," RCMP Manitoba says in a statement.
No fines have been issued to The Church of God Restoration from this incident. RCMP Manitoba says that they are working with Manitoba Public Health.
The Church of God Restoration consisting of approximately 150-200 people is not to be confused with the Church of God in the city Steinbach.
The Church of God located at 450 McKenzie Avenue, which is linked to a church group in Alberta. The Church of God is closed to in-person services. This church is one of 23 churches in the area declaring their support of public health measures.
The Reeve of Hanover, the municipality where The Church of God Restoration is from, is disappointed in the church's decision to hold the gatherings. He hopes the RCMP fines churches that violate the health orders.
"It's very disappointing that you have people that blatantly disregard health orders of Manitoba," Reeve Stan Toews says. "This is in no way indicative of our other churches in the area; I believe they are all doing their services online."
Most churches across Manitoba are following the public health orders by not holding in-person gatherings.
Roussin says that the province is not naming the regions where churches have not been following public health orders.
The doctor says that he hears people who say the orders violate their right to practice their religion, but that the immediate health needs from the pandemic need to be considered.
"We are not here to violate people's rights, we are here to protect Manitobans lives," Roussin says. "We know how important it is, but the balance, the severity of the issue and all of these restrictions are directly connected to the seriousness of the issue."
He says the intent of the restrictions is to save people's lives.
To date, 236 people ranging from being in their 20s to 100s have died from COVID-19 in Manitoba.
The Chief Public Health Officer does not want people trying to skirt around the rules, saying following the spirit of the rules is important.
"Doing things that fall out of the spirit of the orders, you are compromising things that are in place to save Manitobans' lives."
He is asking churches to consider why the orders are in place.
"These are challenging times and now we are getting into nine months of these challenging times, but these orders are here to save Maitonbans lives. To protect the people around you, to protect our larger community, to protect our healthcare workers."
Roussin says all Manitobans must follow the orders, or enforcement will be used.
"I think that enforcement is important, especially where we are at right now," Rossin says, calling it a critical moment of time during the pandemic. "We are going to need to ensure enforcement takes place.
Roussin says enforcement professionals are taking on the task, including looking into The Church of God Restoration.
RCMP Manitoba is unable to provide statistics on how many warnings or fines were issued this past weekend at worship gatherings as they are still collecting data.