The City of Kelowna says a fitness studio coming under fire for trying to ban members who have received a COVID-19 vaccine has been operating without a business licence, and steps are now being taken to potentially shut it down.
Flow Academy markets itself as a studio for activities including Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, kickboxing, and yoga, but an online post that’s since been removed from the company’s website drew attention for other reasons.
“Flow Academy will not be accepting any applications for membership from anyone who has received any of the vaccine options for COVID-19,” the post said.
It then listed a number of false health concerns related to vaccines, attributing its claims to unnamed “health, wellness, and fitness related facilities across Canada.”
Interior Health is aware of the post, and is trying to shut down the studio’s false claims.
“There is no public health basis for a policy excluding people who are immunized against COVID-19,” Interior Health said in a statement.
Flow Academy has also caught the attention of several agencies in the province, including the city, which received a complaint about the facility, then discovered the studio had also been operating without a business license.
The city says Flow Academy later applied for a business license on March 10.
The application was denied.
“They were not in compliance with B.C. law and provincial health orders, so we’re not able to grant them a business licence,” said Lance Kayfish, risk manager for the City of Kelowna.
The city has issued fines to the studio, which has remained open and operating.
Interior Health has also issued Flow Academy an order for non-compliance with health orders, as well as issuing a ticket to a woman at the studio named Tonya Aguiar for “interfering with a person exercising a power under the PHA."
“In this case, we think it’s obvious the organization is not following proper health orders,” Kayfish said. “It’s frustrating when you see an organization or a group that’s just flouting the rules.”
The studio’s efforts to ban vaccinated members caught the attention of many online, prompting a flurry of comments on Facebook.
“You should be ashamed of yourselves,” one commenter wrote.
Lawyer Adam van der Linde says the studio’s stand raises both legal and human rights questions.
“Base-level legalities of it, they’re encouraging people to violate a provincial health order,” he told CTV News from Victoria, noting reports the studio had also banned the use of masks inside.
“I think the bigger risk would be people who do go there and contract COVID, or employees who perhaps want to be vaccinated, or who want to wear a mask in public. How is the club going to treat them?”
Kayfish says the city is now working with WorkSafeBC and the RCMP, exploring next steps.
That could include an injunction to shut the business down to everyone — vaccinated or not.
“I do believe we will get a resolve to this shortly,” Kayfish said.
Flow Academy did not respond to CTV News Vancouver’s request for comment.