Kelowna church defying public health order visited by police again

Cops visit church again

Sarita Patel

A Kelowna church that refuses to cancel in-person services in accordance with B.C.'s public health orders was paid another visit by the Kelowna RCMP Sunday.

The Kelowna Harvest Fellowship was issued a $2,300 ticket by the RCMP last month for holding an in-person service on Dec. 19. The fine came two weeks after officers first warned the church about the public health order prohibiting indoor social gatherings or events, including in-person church services.

Despite that fine, Pastor Heather Lucier told Castanet they have no plans to stop future in-person services, and on Sunday, police paid another visit to the non-denominational church near Harvey Avenue and Burtch Road.

While Lucier was holding another in-person service at the time, she said the RCMP officer did not issue her another fine, but she's prepared to receive more if it comes down to that.  

“We actually had a girl a couple of weeks ago come into church that was suicidal and we had a chance to minister to her and just pray with her and she's alive," Lucier said. "So people say 'you're going to get a fine.' Well, if I have to pay $2,300 to save somebody's life, I am down for that." 

She added that Sunday was the third time police have checked on their in-person services, but they've only received the one ticket. The local church has retained legal counsel and plans on fighting the ticket in court, arguing the order infringes on their Charter rights. 

"The ticket went to me and our church so we want to do our due diligence in what we can for our church, and so receiving the fine, having it sent to our lawyers, and letting them handle that part of it – we're just trying to have church," she said Sunday. 

The officer at the scene would not comment on the matter, but Castanet is expecting a comment from the RCMP later Sunday.

Lucier did not confirm the number of patrons at the church service Sunday, but she said church attendance has grown "exponentially" in the last month. She said she will definitely hold an in-person service next weekend, and that nothing will stop her. 

"There would probably have to be bars on the doors and then we'd just go somewhere else," she said. 

Lucier added that face masks are available for those attending their services, but the church is not requiring attendees wear them. 

While Lucier and the church were not fined this weekend, the organizer of the downtown Kelowna protest against COVID-19 measures was handed a $2,300 fine on Saturday. The same fine was handed to David Lindsay for organizing the protest last month, but it's unclear if Lindsay was the recipient of the most recent ticket.

Last week, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry extended the ban on all indoor social gatherings and events of any kind by an extra month. The ban includes all in-person religious services, but allows for "individual activities such as contemplation or personal prayer." 

The order will remain in place until at least Feb. 5. 

More Kelowna News