British Columbia

Kelowna church fined $2,300 a 2nd time for holding in-person services

Kelowna Harvest Church pastor Art Lucier says he received a $2,300 violation ticket on Sunday for holding services.

Harvest Church received the same penalty in early January

Art Lucier, pictured in this 2018 photo taken in North Battleford, Sask., says Harvest Church in Kelowna, B.C., where he is a pastor, was issued a $2,300 fine by RCMP for the second time on Sunday. (Trevor Bothorel/CBC)

A Kelowna, B.C., church has been fined a second time for holding in-person services in violation of public health orders to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

According to the police, Harvest Church — located in the 1600-block of Harvey Avenue —  was issued a $2,300 violation ticket after RCMP responded to a complaint about a large gathering at the place of worship on Sunday.

The church's pastor Art Lucier confirms on Facebook he received the penalty after stepping out of the church.

"Such a surreal time we live in," Lucier said of his fine.

Harvest Church was first ticketed $2,300 two weeks ago for hosting a congregation, after RCMP officers visited the church in December to inform it of the public health order.

"I know that we are going to be fighting the fine," said Lucier on Jan. 6. "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.

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

Last week, Township of Langley Coun. Kim Richter introduced a motion calling for churches or other places of worship which don't obey COVID-19 rules to lose their eligibility for property tax grants. She hopes other communities will consider taking similar action.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has repeatedly said places of worship have been a source of COVID-19 transmission.

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.

Kelowna RCMP Supt. Kara Triance said on Tuesday a layered approach is being taken to ensure compliance with public health orders, which involves educating people and understanding the obstacles to their compliance before issuing violation tickets. 

With files from Meera Bains

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