N.S. church, seven attendees, fined for allegedly violating restrictions for second straight Sunday

For the second straight Sunday, a church in Weston, Nova Scotia and some parishioners have received stiff fines for violating public health orders.

The Nova Scotia RCMP confirmed they issued a $11,622.50 fine to the Weston Christian Fellowship Church, and fined seven churchgoers $2,422 after responding to the church on Sunday morning.

It is the third straight Sunday that RCMP responded to the church.

On May 9, RCMP issued a $11,622.50 fine to the church, and fined 26 churchgoers $2,422 each for violating the province’s Health Protection Act.

Police say they had also responded to a similar complaint at the church on May 2, and a warning was issued at that time, as restrictions had recently changed to no longer allow faith gatherings.

The latest church fines come one day after Halifax Regional Police made multiple arrests on Citadel Hill when protestors defied a court injunction to prevent an illegal gathering.

Privacy lawyer David Fraser said, the Nova Scotia Government resorted to strict measures when they asked the Supreme Court to grant the injunction.

"That is intended to prohibit something that is eminent and harmful," said Fraser.

In this case, it was a proposed anti-vaccine, anti-mask rally. The injunction now gives police additional powers.

"Previously, if you violated public health, the penalty would be a fine of $2,000,” said Fraser. “But there wasn't going to be the power for police to arrest individuals."

The punishment for people who defied this injunction could be severe.

"It could have imprisonment consequences," said Fraser, who added that would be unlikely. “You can go up right before a judge in that the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia to try to explain why you did what you did."

From a big picture, law enforcement perspective, Fraser said he is concerned: “It could be used with respect to anybody who has been deemed to be unlawfully gathering," said Fraser.

All of this took place on a day that saw Nova Scotia report 126 new cases of COVID-19, with 103 recoveries.

Infectious Disease Doctor and scientist Lisa Barrett said the public health message going forward remains the same.

"I am really pleading with people to keep up the testing frequency," said Dr. Barrett.

Barrett said routine testing is crucial when it comes to successfully tackling this latest wave of COVID-19.