Leon Fontaine, pastor of a Canadian megachurch, dies at 59

Leon Fontaine, senior pastor of the Springs Church, a multisite congregation based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in a Facebook video posted Dec. 2, 2020. | Facebook/Leon Fontaine

Canadian megachurch pastor Leon Fontaine, who recently drew attention for his refusal to comply with ongoing COVID-19 and restrictive lockdown orders that prohibit churches from holding in-person or drive-in worship gatherings, died at 59 years.

A video posted online showing Fontaine’s five children confirmed that he passed away on Saturday night, though it did not name a specific cause of death.

“I know you’re probably shocked and so are we,” said the late pastor’s daughter, Danielle Fontaine Craig, as reported by the Winnipeg Sun. “The last few days, all of a sudden, it took a very sharp turn that we really didn’t expect.”

In addition to his five adult children, Fontaine also leaves behind his wife, Sally, and five grandchildren.

Many condolences were posted on social media, including a Facebook post from the Canadian branch of Kenneth Copeland Ministries on Monday.

“One of our very own Generals of Faith, Leon Fontaine has transitioned to his forever home in Heaven. He was an incredible leader, communicator and pastor who was a strong voice for the church in Canada,” the ministry stated. “He has served the Lord, his country and the church well, and he will be greatly missed. We rejoice with him because he has now entered into his eternal reward.”

Canadian Senator Don Plett also posted his condolences on Facebook, explaining that he was “saddened to learn of the untimely passing of Leon Fontaine.”

“Leon was a man of integrity who led with compassion. Betty and I offer our deepest condolences to his wife, family and friends,” Plett stated.

Fontaine was the senior pastor of the Springs Multi-Site Church, which was based in Winnipeg and had 10,000 regular worshipers.

He was also a televangelist, serving as CEO of the Miracle Channel and hosting television shows like “The Spirit Contemporary Life” and “The Leon Show.”

He was also the founder of a US-based ministry known as Spirit Contemporary International, as well as president of Springs Christian Academy & College.

In 2018, he became a board member of the Congress of Christian Leaders, launched by prominent Hispanic evangelical leader Reverend Samuel Rodríguez.

Fontaine sparked controversy in theological circles, as some accused him of being a proponent of the prosperity gospel, the belief that God wants Christians to be wealthy and healthy in this life.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Fontaine and his church faced litigation when they decided to continue holding in-person and drive-in worship services, despite government orders to close churches.

In December 2020, Manitoba loosened its restrictions on drive-in worship services after Springs Church sued the province after receiving four $5,000 citation fines for holding gatherings safe.

Fontaine said in a statement at the time that the drive-in ban singled out places of worship to receive worse treatment than secular businesses such as bars and large retail stores.

“The government has established rules that prohibit people from meeting with people who are not members of their household. They have deemed these rules sufficient to keep people safe while driving to the retail liquor, cannabis or big box store, parking their car and entering those premises,” Fontaine said at the time.

“If this is the case, we have to ask why the government has deemed it unsafe for Manitobanese to drive to their place of worship with the windows closed during the entire service and practice their faith. We believe this is an oversight on the part of the Manitoba government.”

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Leon Fontaine, pastor of a Canadian megachurch, dies at 59

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