Fines can reach $ 57,000 with new penalties for violating NS collection rules

People and organizations hosting gatherings in Nova Scotia that ignore public health orders will now face steep monetary sanctions.

The province announced Thursday morning that a new category of offenses will see organizers held directly responsible for violating the Health Protection Act.

The announcement comes after a religious gathering in late October resulted in the transmission of COVID-19, which spread to various areas of the province and caused the deaths of three people. The organizers did not ask for proof of vaccination from those who participated, in violation of public health rules.

The pastor of the church, which organized the multi-day gathering, was fined $ 2,422 at the gathering.

Under the new fine structure, the first offenses for persons organizing or participating in an illegal gathering will result in a fine of $ 2,422 and increase to $ 11,622 for subsequent offenses.

Organizations will be fined $ 11,622 for the first offense and $ 57,622 for subsequent violations. Individuals may also risk imprisonment.

Premier rejects “ruthless behavior”

The new fines take effect immediately.

“I do not want more loved ones to be lost because of this kind of ruthless behavior,” Prime Minister Tim Houston said in a press release.

He later told reporters that he felt a single fine of $ 2,422 was not high enough in the case of the religious gathering.

“Those who ignore the rules must have a deterrent effect. And the fines, as they were, were not appropriate.”

Houston said the new fines are the highest they can be without making legislative changes.

NS Premier Tim Houston speaks to reporters on November 18, 2021. Houston condemned what he called the ‘ruthless behavior’ of those who organized a religious gathering in late October that resulted in the transfer of COVID-19 and caused three human death. (CBC)

He said the new levels of fines could not be applied retroactively to the religious assembly, but he hoped new fines could be issued in the case – for example, by charging one for each day for the gathering or for other people at the event.

The province said more than 1,375 tickets have been issued under health protection and emergency management laws since the state of emergency began in March 2020.

On Wednesday, Houston blew up the organizers of the gathering in late October, leading to the eruptions. Robert Smith, pastor of the Gospel Light Baptist Church, who hosted the event, has said what happened was “unfortunate” but part of God’s plan.

Possible reasons for criminal charges

Dalhousie University law professor Wayne MacKay said in addition to the fine imposed on the pastor, it is possible that there are grounds for criminal charges, including criminal negligence.

“Now it’s extremely difficult to prove, but under criminal negligence, if you have a duty to do something and you either do not do it or do it inadequately or do it with a reckless disregard for the safety of others, then it can be considered as criminal negligence, “he said.

Sentencing for that offense can come with jail terms ranging from three years to life.

MacKay said civil cases against the church or pastor are also an option and will depend on whether the actions of the church or pastor caused the alleged harm, such as death or other injuries.

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