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Kelowna church to take on Dr. Bonnie Henry in court

FILE. Harvest Ministries International
January 06, 2021 - 6:00 PM

The Kelowna faith leader who was hit with a $2,300 fine for holding a service contrary to the provincial health order doesn’t intend to back down.

“The church will be fighting this ticket and has retained legal counsel,” Marty Moore, with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, said today, Jan. 6.

Moore is legal counsel for Harvest Ministries International on Harvey Avenue, the church in question, and said that it’s not the only one taking a stand. Every ticket issued to a church in B.C. in the wake of the order to not gather for services will be challenged.

The public health order, he said, is violating the fundamental freedom of conscience and religion, which is laid out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“(B.C.) is treating faith groups in disparate fashion…. You can go to a support meeting, a city council meeting, have a drink at a bar and regardless of all the things (the church has) done to protect its members, you can’t have a church service in B.C.,” he said.

That unequal treatment to those who rely on faith gatherings stands out from how things are run across the country.

Moore pointed out that it’s something the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association have also drawn the province’s attention to, to no avail.

Mid December, they wrote an open letter to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix urging them to reconsider the order that banned religious groups from convening.

The associations argued that for some people, exercising their charter right to freedom of religion may require in-person services, and taking that away has to be demonstrably justified under the law.

“To many people and many Canadians, faith services are an important part of their life, more important than grocery shopping,” Moore said. “Dr. Bonnie Henry has made a decision and it’s discriminatory to people of faith…Dr. Bonnie Henry and the B.C. government have failed to treat everyone equally.”

The $2,300 ticket was issued Dec. 19, 2020,  at the church in the 1600 block of Harvey Avenue in Kelowna. They'd already been there a week earlier, and at that time took "an educational approach regarding the current COVID-19 health regulations" in an attempt to attain compliance from the congregation.

The province said yesterday, Jan. 5, that between Aug. 21, 2020, and Jan. 1, 2021, 574 violation tickets were issued across B.C., including 103 tickets for $2,300 to owners or organizers contravening the Provincial Health Officer's order on gatherings and events.

There have been 21 $2,300 violation tickets issued for contravention of the Food and Liquor Serving Premises Order and 450 $230 tickets issued to individuals who refused to comply with direction from law enforcement.

Additionally, since the pandemic began, police agencies in British Columbia have issued 77 violation tickets to individuals who were in contravention of the federal Quarantine Act, totalling $84,266.25. The purpose of the Quarantine Act is to protect public health by taking comprehensive measures to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases.


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