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Three Chilliwack churches fined nearly $20,000 for breaking COVID-19 rules

Last Updated Dec 18, 2020 at 4:09 pm PST

(Source: iStock)

Three churches have been fined for holding in-person services against public health orders

RCMP says eight tickets totalling $18,400 were handed out Thursday

CHILLIWACK (NEWS 1130) — Three churches in Chilliwack have been fined for violating COVID-19 health regulations after holding in-person services earlier this month.

A total of eight tickets were issued Thursday to representatives of the congregations amounting to $18,400, according to RCMP.

RELATED: Fraser Health CEO asks church leaders threatening to defy COVID safety orders to cooperate

On Dec. 6 and Dec.13, Mounties were called to reports of people gathering at three different churches, despite provincial health orders banning in-person services until at least Jan. 8.

Mounties previously said they would be forwarding charges in connection to this, which is considered a legal step above handing out enforcement fines.

RELATED: Petition calls for B.C. to loosen gathering restrictions for churches

Civil liberties groups have penned a letter to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix questioning their justification of the ban.

Current provincial orders do allow for some group activities, like Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and the letter argued the same rationale allowing those gatherings also applies to some in-person religious services.

Henry has said on several occasions the province’s restrictions target areas in the community where transmission of COVID-19 is happening at a significant rate. These have included religious services and high-intensity group exercise classes, but not places such as schools, restaurants, and bars.

RELATED: Chilliwack churches’ claim COVID-19 order violates Charter likely wouldn’t hold up in court: lawyer

Some churches have argued refusing in-person service violated Charter rights, but NEWS 1130 legal consultant Michael Shapray previously explained protections under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are neither simple nor sweeping.