Parishioners from two churches in Winnipeg's North End got a nasty surprise from the city when they emerged from Orthodox Christmas services this week: parking tickets on their vehicles.
A total of 15 people have each been issued $75 fines for parking on streets scheduled for snow clearing.
Twelve of those who received tickets attend the Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Resurrection on 732 Alfred Ave., while three are from the Holy Trinity Sobor at 643 Manitoba Ave.
All were celebrating Orthodox Christmas on Tuesday morning when their vehicles were ticketed on the streets outside the churches.
"When they left the service, they all had these Christmas presents from the city, which were tickets on their cars," said Rev. Raphael Vereshack of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Resurrection.
The street was scheduled for plowing, but Vereshack said there was no signage near the church warning the parishioners, most of whom don't live in the area.
Some of those who got tickets expressed their outrage at the city on Wednesday night.
"I think it's some kind of discrimination against us," Yuri Sechan told CBC News.
Said Fedor Ivashkin, "I think everybody in city hall know that Jan. 7 is a very big day for Orthodox people."
'Punished for their visit'
At Holy Trinity Sobor, Rev. Roman Pavlov said his members discovered parking tickets on their vehicles in the middle of his service on Tuesday.
Pavlov said the fines have put a damper on his congregation's Ukrainian Christmas celebrations.
"They came and they were punished for their visit to the church," he said. "They showed their faith, and they [were] beat for that. Why?"
Some of the fined parishioners said they called the city's 311 line and were told there is a complaint form they can fill out, but they wouldn't get answers for several weeks.
The parking fines, if not paid in two weeks from the date they are issued, will go up from $75 to $150.
Both church leaders have asked their city councillor to help them lobby the Winnipeg Parking Authority into getting into the holiday spirit and sparing their members.
"We would really ask the parking authority to waive those tickets," said Vereshack.
City issues statement in response to tickets
On Thursday morning, the City of Winnipeg responded with a written statement, saying city officials do not have the authority to change a ticket after it has been issued. You can read the full statement below:
The City encourages all citizens to “Know Your Zone” for not only their address but also any addresses they may be visiting during a Residential Parking Ban. This information is available online at Winnipeg.ca or by contacting 311.
In the past, for special situations such as a holiday Church service, the Church has contacted 311 in advance with event information and the City has worked with operations to minimize impact in that area at a requested time.
It is the responsibility of an organization to alert the City regarding any of their special events that may be impacted by a parking ban.
We can’t reverse the tickets – only the Crown Attorney can enter a Stay of Proceedings. Once the ticket has been issued, the charge has been laid, and it is no longer within the City’s authority to change that.