Coronavirus: Kelowna anti-lockdown organizer slapped with $2,300 fine

Click to play video 'Okanagan man opposes anti-maskers in Kelowna' Okanagan man opposes anti-maskers in Kelowna
"Truly, it's an honor to be out here supporting science and the front-line workers,” said David Crawford, a Kelowna resident – Jan 9, 2021

The organizer of a Kelowna rally protesting B.C.’s COVID-19 restrictions was handed another $2,300 fine on Saturday for violating public health orders.

For months, opponents of B.C.’s COVID rules have gathered in Kelowna’s Stuart Park. Dozens of people march through the city’s downtown core holding placards along Harvey Avenue.

Read more: Coronavirus: Okanagan man opposes anti-maskers in Kelowna

The signs often express anti-lockdown, anti-mask, and anti-vaccine sentiments. Many people in attendance do not wear masks or maintain physical distance.

Kelowna RCMP said officers were on hand “to ensure the safety of the protesters and the rest of the public.”

Click to play video 'Hundreds attend anti-restriction rally in Kelowna' Hundreds attend anti-restriction rally in Kelowna
Hundreds attend anti-restriction rally in Kelowna – Dec 12, 2020

Police did not release the name of the “self-identified” organizer, but it is the second time a $2,300 fine has been issued for gathering in contravention of public health orders.

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“People in Canada have a democratic right to a lawful and peaceful protest and the RCMP must use discretion when balancing a citizen’s rights with the current potential health risks associated to large public gatherings,” Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy said in a statement.

Read more: Coronavirus: Mayor of Kelowna urges protesters to follow public health orders

“However, if the activities being engaged in are in violation of the provincial Public Health Orders, those involved can face fines.”

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The anti-lockdown rally came a day after the city’s mayor expressed frustration with what has become a routine weekend event.

Colin Basran urged rallygoers to respect fellow citizens by wearing masks and to practice physical distancing.

Click to play video 'KGH doctors write open letter to public' KGH doctors write open letter to public
KGH doctors write open letter to public – Jan 5, 2021

“People have the right to peacefully protest, but they do not have the right to put others at risk by defying public health orders,” Basran said in a statement.

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Read more: Coronavirus: Hundreds attend anti-restriction rally in downtown Kelowna

“Individual rights and freedoms are fundamental to our democracy, but they are only possible within parameters established by the democratic process,” Basran wrote.

“We cannot travel the wrong way down a one-way street because we have a selfish wish to get somewhere faster.”

Basran noted that doctors at Kelowna General Hospital (KGH) recently spoke out about their concerns with rising case numbers in the Central Okanagan. The physicians encouraged residents to maintain vigilance.

Meanwhile, Kelowna’s Harvest Ministries International held another in-person gathering on Sunday for worship, in violation of health orders.

Police have visited the church on at least three occasions and issued the organizer a $2,300 fine late last month.

There were 139 new cases of COVID-19 identified in the Kelowna-area from Dec. 27-Jan. 2, according to data released by the BC Centre for Disease Control. 

The number of new coronavirus cases in the Central Okanagan has dropped by more than half since early December, but fewer tests may have played a role.

Thirty-eight people have died of COVID-19 in the Interior Health region, 60 per cent of whom were long-term care residents.

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On Thursday, B.C. extended COVID-19 restrictions, including a ban on all social gatherings, until Feb. 5.

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