Canada: Vancouver Church May Need Supplementary Collection Plates To Pay Damages To Wrongfully-Dismissed Pastor

Last Updated: December 15 2015
Article by Michael MacLellan

Here's something you probably didn't expect: the British Columbia Supreme Court has ruled that the Vancouver Chinese Baptist Church owes a total of $84,520 to the senior pastor whose employment it terminated without just cause, in Kong v. Vancouver Chinese Baptist Church, 2015 BCSC 1328 (CanLII).

The Vancouver Chinese Baptist Church is a church and society with membership of approximately 800 people who, according to the Church's by-laws, are "professed, regenerated and baptized believers into the fellowship" who are "expected to lead exemplary Christian lives".  The Church's leader is its Senior Pastor, who must be an ordained Baptist Minister.  Other Church officers include Deacons, Directors, and Department and Committee Members.

Reverend Alfred Yiu Chuen Kong was recruited by the Church when he was still preaching and living in China.  The Church promised to assist him with his move to Vancouver, and the employment agreement was to begin with a 12-month "adjustment period" for the Church and Rev. Kong both to determine the suitability of the relationship.

Rev. Kong began his employment with the Church on January 1, 2011, and since neither party noted any issues during the adjustment period, his role became permanent.  However, in 2012 difficulties arose between Rev. Kong and the Church's two Associate Pastors, concerning managerial and communications issues.  A series of meetings were convened between the Church and its committees, along with Rev. Kong and the Deacons, including a "reconciliation meeting" in early 2013.  The essential purpose of these meetings was to monitor and assess the viability of the continued employment of Rev. Kong.

Rev. Kong was advised that the Church would be conducting performance appraisals on a regular basis, and that his performance would be among those reviewed.  He took exception to that practice, disputed the authority of the Personnel Committee to do so as well as disputing its authority to take any disciplinary or non-disciplinary measures whatsoever with respect to his employment.  The Associate Pastors both resigned in May 2013, which caused further tension in the Church. 

On June 8, 2013, Rev. Kong circulated an email to all members of the Church, setting out his concerns with what had taken place over the previous months.  The next day, on motion of the full membership, a "leaders group" was established to review the suitability of Rev. Kong as Senior Pastor.  In the course of that review, the group disseminated to the membership documents and information highly critical of Rev. Kong's behaviour and conduct, and stating that he had not acted as a "good shepherd" for the Church's membership.  Accordingly, on June 12 the Church advised Rev. Kong that it had concluded he was "absolutely not suitable to continue to be the Senior Pastor."  He was offered a chance to resign, but instead produced successive medical notes and took leaves of absences from employment.

The Church offered Rev. Kong with pay in lieu of six months' notice of termination at the expiry of his sick leave on October 3, 2013.  Rev. Kong did not accept this arrangement, and instead brought a claim for wrongful dismissal damages, as well as aggravated damages and punitive damages.

The Court determined the quantum for general damages for wrongful dismissal by applying the typical common law factors, often known as the Bardal factors.  It found:

  • The role of senior pastor is a unique type of employment, such that comparison to other cases was not generally appropriate;
  • Age is seen as an advantage for leaders of many faiths, indicating wisdom, and making subsequent employment more likely;
  • Although Rev. Kong was employed for fewer than three years, the fact that a 12-month "adjustment period" was provided and completed, indicated an expectation that the position would be permanent;
  • The existence of a 12 month adjustment period reflected the potential difficulty associated with being found "suitable" and securing another similar Senior Pastor position;
  • The controversy surrounding Rev. Kong at his termination, even though not cause for termination, would negatively affect his future job search efforts.

Accordingly, the Court ordered the Church to pay general damages for wrongful dismissal in the amount of $54,520, having taken into account that Rev. Kong did secure subsequent employment.

Further, the Court held that the Church was "unduly insensitive" in the manner of its dismissal of Rev. Kong.  In particular, the Court ruled that the circulation of unproven allegations impugning the social and spiritual worth of Rev. Kong was unduly insensitive, and warranted an additional award for aggravated damages in the amount of $30,000 to compensate for the mental distress the church caused him.  The Court did not however order any punitive damages, since the Church's actions, while unduly insensitive, were not "malicious and outrageous".

The Court's decision does not provide any thorough analysis regarding the appropriateness of judging the length of the reasonable notice period in this case by comparison to the "adjustment period", and may not withstand scrutiny on appeal.  However, the more important lesson for employers is to take care to avoid acting in an "unduly insensitive" manner when terminating an employee's employment.

In particular, employers should always avoid any conduct that may tarnish an employee's reputation and make their subsequent job search more difficult.  Doing so may open the door for a court to assess a longer notice period and cost the company more money in damages for wrongful dismissal – notwithstanding that that kind of increase to a notice period seems remarkably similar to the way "Wallace" damages worked, a concept which was eliminated by the Supreme Court of Canada in Honda v. Keays.

In any event, it seems that in this case, if the Vancouver Chinese Baptist Church had paused to consider the Golden Rule, it could have saved itself $30,000.

For all other employers, you may wish to contact any of the experienced counsel at CCPartners to assist in determining the manner in which a termination of employment can be carried out, and how to do so in a way that is appropriately sensitive to the employee.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Michael MacLellan
In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions