City of Kelowna hands out $3,900 in fines for outdoor gatherings

City hands out hefty fines

As the province prepares to roll out a new vaccine passport on Monday, the City of Kelowna is stepping up its enforcement efforts at public gatherings.

In the past three weeks, event organizers in Kelowna were issued 14 fines totalling $3,900 for non-compliance with the city's outdoor events bylaw.

“The city acknowledges and supports the fundamental freedom of peaceful assembly,” said Mayor Colin Basran. “But there are limits to what is considered a protest and we have no tolerance for those who flout the rules for public events that everyone else has to follow.”

Kelowna bylaw enforcement will continue to be at public gatherings where organizers have failed to obtain the appropriate event-related permits.

At the present time organized indoor gatherings, such as weddings, are limited to 50 people and require a COVID-19 safety plan. Outdoor gatherings are limited to 100 people and also require a COVID-19 safety plan.

The city says its bylaw officers and the RCMP aim to maintain public order and minimize the impact and inconvenience caused by lawful and peaceful protests.

"Police continue to assess risks at public gatherings, resource them accordingly, and respond to ensure safety, enforce public health orders, and balance the rights of those protesting with the safety of the community," the city said in a news release.

When the vaccine passports take effect next week, enforcing compliance with the new vaccine passport rules will be handled by different agencies that have the appropriate legislative authority to respond.

The RCMP will respond if there is an imminent threat or potential for immediate harm to themselves or others.

“This a new and dynamic situation and while B.C.’s proof of vaccination program is finalized, the RCMP is determining our role in this process,” said RCMP Supt. Kara Triance. “The RCMP is committed to working with our partners to ensure the safety of our community as we move forward together.”

For non-compliant businesses, bylaw officers will continue to respond, educate and attempt to get voluntary compliance.

In cases of continued non-compliance, bylaw services will engage the appropriate enforcement agencies, such as environmental health officers, WorksafeBC, police, or other provincial peace officers with the legislated authority to respond.

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