British Columbia

Defiant church officials plan to fight $2,300 fine for holding in-person services

Harvest Church in Kelowna, B.C., was fined for allegedly holding services in violation of public health orders. Pastor Art Lucier says the group plans to contest the fine, and may continue holding services.

Pastor of Harvest Church in Kelowna, B.C., cites 'constitutional right to meet' after fine was issued

Art Lucier, pictured in this 2018 file photo taken in North Battleford, Sask., says his group plans to fight a $2,300 fine issued by police in Kelowna. (Trevor Bothorel/CBC)

A Kelowna, B.C., church is defiant after being fined for allegedly holding in-person services in violation of public health orders issued to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Art Lucier, pastor at Harvest Church, said somebody complained about the church to Kelowna RCMP, who paid the group a visit.

According to police, officers attended the church, which is located in the Kelowna Business Centre on Hartley Avenue, in December to inform the group of the health order. Two weeks later they returned and found the congregation meeting again.

A $2,300 fine was issued to Lucier's wife, Heather Lucier.

"I know that we are going to be fighting the fine," said Art Lucier on Wednesday. "We believe it is our constitutional right to meet."

He said the church provides a service similar to support groups and he wants to continue serving his congregation during the pandemic.

"We deal with addicts and homeless people and we feel it's imperative to be there for the most vulnerable in this time of COVID," said Lucier. "Suicide is up, fear is up, so we would like to continue to be there for them."

Other B.C. churches have also faced fines for defying health orders. In mid-December, police in the Fraser Valley said they had fined three churches a total of $18,400 for violating public health orders.

Health officials reported Wednesday that eight more people in the province have been killed by the virus, with 625 new confirmed cases.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, has repeatedly said COVID-19 transmission has happened in places of worship.

Henry issued an order suspending in-person faith services Nov. 19, along with a number of other orders in an effort to get the spread of COVID-19 under control.

With files from Brady Strachan