A U.S. senator has asked that Canada be investigated for violating religious freedom over the arrests of two Alberta pastors accused of flouting COVID-19 restrictions.

Missouri Republican Senator Jeff Hawley has sent a letter to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

“I am troubled that our Canadian neighbours are effectively being forced to gather in secret, undisclosed locations to exercise their basic freedom to worship,” Hawley wrote.

“Frankly, I would expect this sort of religious crackdown in Communist China, not in a prominent western nation like Canada.”

Hawley refers in his letter to the arrests of Alberta pastors James Coates and Tim Stephens.

He compares the arrests of the pastors to something that would happen in China and asks the commission to consider putting Canada on its special watch list.

The commission says it has received Hawley's request and is looking into it.