Measures to enforce COVID-19 public safety released
Police and other provincial enforcement officers are being given the ability to issue $2,000 violation tickets for owners or organizers contravening the provincial health officer’s (PHO) order on gatherings and events, the B.C. Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General and Emergency Management BC announced this morning (August 21).
They will also be able to issue $200 violation tickets to individuals not following the direction of police or enforcement staff at events or who refuse to comply with requests to follow PHO orders or safe operating procedures, or respond with abusive behaviour.
Effective immediately, these new measures are enacted under the provincial state of emergency, using the extraordinary powers of the Emergency Program Act (EPA) in ongoing support of B.C.’s COVID-19 response and Restart Plan, a provincial government media release outlined.
“These orders will help us put a stop to the selfish acts of a small minority of British Columbians, who are threatening to erode the progress our province has made in controlling COVID-19,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “While I’m disappointed these measures are now necessary, I am taking this action to give police agencies and provincial enforcement officers the ability to take action against those who are putting people’s lives at risk.”
In addition to enabling action from police, the province is enlisting compliance and enforcement staff from provincial ministries to support enforcement and help issue tickets for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes liquor, cannabis and gaming inspectors, community safety unit inspectors and conservation officers.
The enforcement focus will be on $2,000 fines to owners, operators and organizers for contraventions of the provincial health officer’s order on gatherings and events. This includes hosting a private party or public event in excess of 50 people, failing to provide appropriate hand sanitation and washroom facilities, failing to provide sufficient space in the venue for physical distancing, failing to obtain a list of names and contacts at large event or having more than five guests gathered in a vacation accommodation.
When required, police and other provincial enforcement officers will also be able to actively enforce the order and ticket a series of other infractions, including:
* $200 violation tickets for individuals who actively encourage others to attend gatherings or events that do not comply with established requirements, or refuse to leave or disperse when directed to do so by enforcement officers; and,
* $200 violation tickets for individuals who refuse to comply with requests to follow the PHO order or safe operating procedures of a restaurant, bar or other licensed establishment, or respond with abusive behaviour towards employees.
Violation tickets expand the province’s enforcement toolkit to support the COVID-19 response, it said in its media release.
Police and other provincial enforcement officers will independently exercise discretion to issue tickets for Emergency Program Act order violations under the Offence Act’s Violation Ticket Administration and Fines Regulation.
If violation tickets do not act as a deterrent, or in cases of particularly egregious contraventions or for repeat offenders, police can recommend charges in relation to the offence. On conviction, judicial penalties of up to $10,000 may be levied.
“ABLE BC is pleased to see the Province step up compliance and enforcement during this recent surge in COVID-19 cases, and we’re happy to assist where we can,” said Jeff Guignard, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees. “Our primary concern continues to be the health and safety of both patrons and workers in British Columbia.”
Working in partnership with local governments and other agencies, a comprehensive and integrated compliance and enforcement regime is being built to manage the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. These violation tickets build on existing tools, such as the ability to suspend or revoke the business or liquor licenses of problematic operators, the government said.
The specifics around orders of the PHO, including the numbers allowable at gatherings, will continue to be set at the direction of the PHO.
The current provincial health officer’s order on gatherings and events is as follows:
* A maximum of five individuals may attend a social gathering or an event in vacation accommodation, in addition to the occupants. The owner of vacation accommodation must require any tenant, guest or other person using or occupying the vacation accommodation to comply with this requirement.
* The gathering of more than 50 patrons at a place for the purpose of an event is prohibited.
* An owner or operator of a place may permit up to 50 patrons to attend an event in a place if the following conditions are met:
* there is an organizer of the event;
* if the organizer is not the owner or operator of the place, the organizer must provide the owner or operator with the first and last names and telephone number, or email address, of the patrons who attend the event;
* access to the event is controlled;
* the number of patrons is closely monitored;
* there is sufficient space available to permit the patrons to maintain a distance of two metres from one another;
* the patrons maintain a distance of two metres from one another when standing or sitting, unless they belong to the same party;
* if there are tables provided for the use of patrons, no more than six patrons sit at a table, even if they belong to the same party, and there are at least two metres between the backs of the chairs at one table and the backs of the chairs at another table, unless the chairs are separated by a physical barrier;
* if live performance is provided, or there is a presenter or a presider, a physical barrier must be installed between the performer, presenter or presider and the patrons that blocks the transmission of droplets from the performer, presenter or presider, or there must be at least a three metre separation between the performer, presenter or the presider and the patrons.
* hand sanitation supplies are readily available to patrons;
* there are washroom facilities available with running water, soap and a sanitary means for drying hands for handwashing purposes or hand sanitation supplies.
* The organizer must ensure that these conditions are met and:
* collect the first and last names and telephone number, or email address, of every patron who attends an event or of every driver of a vehicle present at a drive-in event; and
* retain this information for 30 days in case there is a need for contact tracing on the part of the medical health officer, in which case the information must be provided to the medical health officer.
* If the event is a drive-in, the owner or operator may permit more than 50 patrons to be present, if the following conditions, as well as the conditions above, are met:
* patrons only attend in a vehicle;
* no more than 50 vehicles are present at the drive-in;
* patrons are informed that they must stay in their vehicles except to use washroom facilities, and when outside their vehicles they must maintain a distance of two metres from other patrons, and this is monitored; and;
* no food or drink is sold.
If the organizer is not the owner or operator, the owner or operator must: satisfy themselves that the organizer is aware of the requirements listed above and has the capacity to fulfil them; and retain the names of and contact information for the patrons provided by the organizer for 30 days, in case there is a need for contact tracing on the part of the medical health officer, in which case the information must be provided to the medical health officer.