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B.C. pastor, fined $2,300 for holding gathering during pandemic, loses appeal

File photo. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

A pastor in B.C.’s Interior who challenged a $2,300 violation ticket for holding a public gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic had his appeal dismissed this week.

In a decision posted on April 26, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that Pastor Arthur Charles Lucier of Kelowna Harvest Church had indeed organized an in-person worship service on Jan. 24, 2021.

That was contrary to a public health order issued by the province just days earlier on Jan. 8, 2021.

“Pastor Lucier disputed the ticket on constitutional grounds, alleging that the Jan. 8, 2021, (gathering and events order) was an unjustifiable infringement of various rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Charter), including freedom of religion, freedom of peaceful assembly, and the like,” reads the decision.

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Click to play video: 'Kelowna pastor who defied public health measures appeals violation ticket'
Kelowna pastor who defied public health measures appeals violation ticket

Lucier sought an order declaring that the public health order banning gatherings and events was void, which would then result in his ticket being automatically quashed.

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The matter proceeded to trial in B.C. provincial court, and a hearing was held to determine the pastor’s Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge.

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Ultimately, on Sept. 21, 2022, the B.C. provincial court judge issued his ruling and dismissed Lucier’s Charter challenge. Nearly a month later, on Nov. 14, 2022, the judge convicted Lucier, relying on an agreed statement of facts.

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The decision said, “Pastor Lucier admitted that he had organized an in-person worship service at his church on January 24, 2021, an event which he knew was prohibited under the January 8, 2021 (gathering and events) order issued by the (provincial health officer).”

The judge then imposed the mandatory minimum $2,300 fine.

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Lucier, though, appealed, but the Supreme Court turned it down, stating it was simply a reframing of his basic criticism.

The decision ended, saying, “For the reasons stated above, Pastor Lucier’s appeal of his summary conviction must be and is hereby dismissed.”

The decision is available online.

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