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Kelowna councillor troubled by churches, protests defying COVID-19 orders

Last Updated Jan 18, 2021 at 10:26 pm PDT

A fine handed out to a Kelowna church for defying COVID-19 restrictions banning in-person worship. (Courtesy Facebook/HarvestMinistriesCanada)
Summary

Harvest Church in Kelowna continues to hold in-person services in defiance of the public health order

City councillor Mohini Singh says the city hasn't yet decided to step in and impose consequences, isn't ruling it out

KELOWNA (NEWS 1130) — Two $2,300 fines have been handed out to a church in Kelowna in the past two weeks for continuing to hold in-person services in defiance of public health orders.

Art Lucier, the pastor at Harvest Church posted an update on his Facebook Sunday.

“Had a most incredible couple of services this weekend,” he wrote.

“After the service, I stepped outside to get another ticket for 2300$ from the RCMP. Such a surreal time we live in.”

Had a most incredible couple of services this weekend. Mathieu Cloutier, the prodigal who came back to God after 14yrs…

Posted by Art Lucier on Sunday, January 17, 2021

It’s an issue that has also arisen in Metro Vancouver since Dr. Bonnie Henry’s order prohibiting services amid the COVID-19 pandemic came into effect in November of 2020.

In Langley township, a councillor has proposed consequences for churches and other non-profit organizations which openly violate public health orders during the COVID-19.

Kim Richter has put forward a motion which, if passed, could mean tax-exempt organizations would lose those breaks.

“This is not a question about religious freedoms. This is a question of, ‘Why are you at the public trough?’ if you’re going to be doing things that endanger the community that you’re located in,” she told NEWS 1130, pointing out one church that has been fined is set to receive $13,700 a break on property taxes.

RELATED: Legal group challenging B.C.’s COVID-19 rules on protests, places of worship

Kelowna city councillor Mohini Singh says her city hasn’t yet considered similar action, but it’s not out of the question.

“We all have the right to worship. We all have the desire to worship. But we have to comply with the orders of the provincial health officer, because that is of greater good to our community that is of importance,” she says.

“We have to do right for people around us, for our health care workers. So have we as a council taken any action at this point? No. Any deliberations? Not at this point. We’re really relying on the judgment of people to comply with the orders of the public health officer. If this particular church group does not comply, and is repeatedly flaunting the law, then it would behoove us to review our bylaws.”

Singh is also concerned about protests against public health restrictions that are happening every weekend in the city, which has resulted in fines for organizers. 

With files from Martin MacMahon