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Kelowna bylaw officers hand out almost $4K in fines for health-order-breaching gatherings

Bylaw handed out 14 separate fines over the past three weeks
Roughly 1,000 people gathered and protested COVID-19 health measures outside of the hospital on Sept. 1. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)

With B.C.’s vaccine card program coming into effect on Monday, Kelowna bylaw officers will continue enforcement at gatherings that go against provincial health orders.

In the past three weeks, the city said that event organizers in Kelowna were issued 14 fines that totalled $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.”

Under current provincial health orders for the Interior region, indoor personal gatherings are limited to five guests, while outdoor personal gatherings are capped at no more than 50 people.

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.

READ MORE: Phone bank, website launched for B.C. COVID-19 vaccine card

The city noted that while public protests cannot be prohibited and participants cannot be ticketed or fined, amplified entertainment, event tents and product sales in local parks are subject to appropriate bylaws when said events are held without appropriate permits.

When it comes to enforcing compliance with the new vaccine passport rules, the city said that the mandate will be handled by a variety of appropriate agencies that have the legislative authority to respond.

According to the city, Mounties will respond if there is an imminent threat or potential for immediate harm to themselves or others when responding to vaccine passport compliance.

“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,” said the city.

As for non-compliant businesses, the city said that bylaw services will respond, educate and attempt to get voluntary compliance. In cases of continued non-compliance, bylaw services will collaborate with appropriate enforcement agencies, such as Interior Health, WorksafeBC, RCMP or other provincial peace officers with the legislated authority to respond.

“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.”

READ MORE: Central Okanagan sees uptick in jab rates after vax card announcement


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