WINNIPEG — A Manitoba pastor accused of openly violating COVID-19 public health orders has been arrested.
RCMP said officers arrested Tobias Tissen on an outstanding warrant for contravening public health orders during a traffic stop in Steinbach, 60 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg, on Monday.
Tissen is a pastor at the Church of God Restoration in the Rural Municipality of Hanover.
He has spoken at anti-restriction protests and held church services in defiance of public health orders put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“This arrest is an egregious violation of his constitutional rights. Canada is on a dangerous path,” the Church of God Restoration said in an emailed statement.
A video of the arrest was posted on a social media account under Tissen’s name. In it, Tissen is asked to step out of his car due to the outstanding warrant. In the video, a couple bystanders tell Tissen to be strong.
Tissen and his church have been fined numerous times for violating the restrictions. The pastor posted on social media in May that he was told an arrest warrant had been issued for him.
In a video posted on Rebel News last week, Tissen said Manitoba police were not eager to arrest him.
“This whole court system makes me laugh because it’s turning out to be more and more of a joke,” he said in the video.
Pastor Henry Hildebrandt, who is with the Church of God Restoration in Aylmer, Ont., posted a video on social media in response to Tissen’s arrest saying it was a “shame on Canada.”
He sent a message to police adding, “today it’s the pastors, tomorrow it’s you.”
Tissen is also part of a court challenge by seven Manitoba churches fighting the province’s public health restrictions.
Throughout the pandemic, there have been times when Manitoba’s health orders restricted worship services. A significant surge of infections in the second wave clogged hospitals and prompted all in-person and drive-in services to be banned.
Restrictions have been loosened significantly in Manitoba since the spring, as cases of COVID-19 dropped and there was less pressure on the health-care system.
Currently, places of worship have to choose between requiring people to be vaccinated or restricting in-person attendance to 33 per cent capacity or 25 people — whichever is more.
The seven churches, represented by the Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, argued in court in May that the restrictions were unjustified violations of charter-protected freedoms.
“We have no authority scripturally based and based on Christian convictions to limit anyone from coming to hear the word of God,” Tissen told court at the time.
He said it was “God’s jurisdiction.”
The decision over the constitutionality of public health orders is expected later this week.
There have been attempts by churches across the country to quash COVID-19 restrictions on religious gatherings. Controversial Alberta pastor Artur Pawlowski has also been arrested more than once for breaking rules.