According to a B.C. judge, a Kelowna church wasted precious court time by appealing a COVID fine from 2021 for a second time.
Pastor Arthur Lucier of the Kelowna Harvest Church received a $2,300 fine in January 2021 for violating COVID restrictions. He held church in-person to defy provincial health orders that the province says were designed to prevent the spreading of COVID.
“On November 14, 2022, Judge (Clarke) Burnett convicted Pastor Lucier. In that Agreed Statement of Facts, Pastor Lucier admitted that he had organized an in-person worship service at his church on January 24, 2021, an event he knew was prohibited under January 8, 2021, G&E Order issued by the PHO,” wrote Justice Nigel Kent.
On April 26, Lucier lost his appeal in B.C. Provincial Court, and appealed a second time at the province’s Supreme Court. However, Kent ruled against him again.
“In my opinion, Pastor Lucier’s efforts to re-litigate the constitutionality of the January 8, 2021 G&E (Gathering and Events) Order are bound to fail and would be a futile waste of judicial resources,” wrote the judge.
Lucier argued the ticket violated his Charter rights, including freedom of religion and peaceful assembly.
In citing Beaudoin v. British Columbia, Kent upheld the citation because the pastor infringed on crowd restrictions during the COVID pandemic. “The constitutional validity of the health orders issued by the PHO has been expressly upheld,” he wrote.
In his decision, Kent acknowledged Lucier tried to table 1,000 pages of evidence from infectious disease specialists deemed inadmissible in the Beaudoin cases — which determined the legal precedent for provincial health orders during the pandemic.
The judge also cited the Court of Appeal’s judgment in his decision. “While the temporary curtailment of freedoms caused by the orders was significant, so too were the individual and societal interests advanced by imposing them,” it reads.
“The orders advanced the collective good at a time when our community was in crisis.”