COVID-19: Fines for attending or promoting illegal gatherings more than doubled

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      The province of British Columbia announced today that it is more than doubling the fine for attending or promoting a noncompliant event during the COVID-19 public-health emergency.

      The former $230 violation ticket issued under the authority of provincial health officer (PHO) Dr. Bonnie Henry's emergency order has become a $575 fine after an amendment to the Violation Ticket Administration and Fine Regulation.

      The change is effective immediately (March 25).

      The fine for scofflaws who attend illegal gatherings, indoors or outdoors, and who refuse to comply with an enforcement officer's orders to disperse is unchanged at $230, as is the fine in the same amount for engaging in "abusive or belligerent behaviour in relation to the order".

      This means that a partygoer found at an illegal event who refuses to disperse when ordered and who behaves in an insulting and aggressive manner could be the recipient of more than $1,000 in fines ($575 + $230 + $230 = $1,035).

      The $2,300 fine for those who host or organize a prohibited event remains the same, as does the $230 ticket for failure to wear a mask in a public indoor setting.

      The announcement by Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth comes at a time of increasing daily new COVID-19 cases, with 800 reported by the Ministry of Health on March 25.

      "Over the last several months, it's become clear that for some, the risk of a $230 violation ticket isn't enough to deter attendance at events that violate the PHO order," Farnworth said in a March 25 news release. "I am disappointed that a small minority of British Columbians continue to put their health and the health of others at risk by attending unsafe gatherings. This selfish behaviour needs to stop, and police and provincial enforcement authorities will be able to issue these new fines immediately."