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Interior Health shuts down non-compliant Kelowna martial arts studio

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2021-05-06 Winston Szeto
a car parked on the side of a building: Kelowna, B.C., martial arts studio Flow Academy was forcefully shut down by the Interior Health authority on Tuesday due to non-compliance with public health orders. © Brady Strachan/CBC Kelowna, B.C., martial arts studio Flow Academy was forcefully shut down by the Interior Health authority on Tuesday due to non-compliance with public health orders.

The Interior Health authority has taken the unusual step of forcibly closing a Kelowna, B.C., martial arts studio for flouting public health orders. 

On Tuesday, Interior Health officers — accompanied by the City of Kelowna staff and RCMP —  changed the locks of Flow Academy at 1151 Sutherland Avenue.

The health authority says it took aggressive measures to close the premises because owner Tonya Aguiar ignored provincial health orders against indoor group exercises. 

Flow Academy provides classes such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, yoga and meditation. 

In February, Aguiar was ticketed for interfering with health officers' inspection of the premises and was ordered by the health authority to stop hosting indoor group activities.

Interior Health's chief medical health officer Dr. Albert de Villiers said the authority issued a closure order on April 20, but the studio ignored it and kept operating.

"We still saw people coming and going and they were contravening the gathering order and … the closure order," de Villiers told CBC's Brady Strachan.


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"Unfortunately, [we] had to change their locks because there was nothing else we could do at that point."

"This is the first time I actually had to go this far in changing locks and spending a lot of time to actually do this," de Villiers said. "It's the first time we've done that, and hopefully [it's] the last time." 

CBC News has reached out to Aguiar by email but hasn't heard back.

Last month, Flow Academy announced on its website that it wouldn't take new membership applications from anyone who had taken a COVID-19 vaccine, inaccurately characterizing the vaccines as dangerous and a liability concern.

text: Interior Health's closure notice posted on Flow Academy's door says the business failed to follow the authority's closure order issued on April 20. © Brady Strachan/CBC Interior Health's closure notice posted on Flow Academy's door says the business failed to follow the authority's closure order issued on April 20.

Although the announcement was removed, de Villiers said he's troubled by the misinformation about coronavirus vaccines being spread in the local community.

"It's always concerning to us because unfortunately … the public will actually believe and act on that [misinformation] as well, and then they might put other people at risk," he said.

Flow Academy, which has been operating without a business licence since February, submitted an application for one but was turned down by the city due to non-compliance with provincial health orders.

The City of Kelowna's risk manager Lance Kayfish said the city issued four violation tickets totalling $4,000 to Flow Academy for an unlicensed operation and failing to permit city inspections.

"It [the amount of tickets issued] is quite unusual," Kayfish said.

Group indoor fitness activities in gyms, yoga studios and other spaces are currently prohibited. The order is valid until May 25.

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