Home Health Safety COVID compliance crackdown in BC comes with hefty fines

COVID compliance crackdown in BC comes with hefty fines

$2,000 fines for property owners contravening public health orders about gatherings & events | $200 fines to individuals

Friday August 21, 2020 ~ VANCOUVER, BC

by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends

Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, today gave an update on compliance and enforcement measures under the Provincial State of Emergency, as part of the overall response to COVID-19.

Today’s livestreamed media announcement included that a fine of $2,000 will be issued to any property owner or event organizer who allows orders of the Public Health Officer to be disobeyed. Individuals who disregard instructions to leave an event where orders are not being followed can be issued a $200 violation ticket.

Stanley Park, drum circle, July 21 2020
Large drum gathering on the beach at Stanley Park on July 21, 2020 where people did not adhere to physical distancing. [web]

“It’s a small minority of selfish individuals across the province who are disregarding the public health measures in place,” said Farnworth, clearly expressing his disappointment with the “few” who are endangering the lives of many.

Referring to crowded house parties and events on streets and at beaches, Farnworth in his suitably gruff manner said: “There is no excuse to disregard the responsibility to keep each other safe in this pandemic.”

“These irresponsible actions are putting our most vulnerable at risk,” Farnworth said, adding that “it could cost people their lives”.  

“That’s why stricter enforcement is necessary,” the Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General said today in his announcement.

Expanding the toolkit:

“Public health officials have done so much to guide us through” for protective of everyone’s collective health, said Farnworth, adding that he is “disappointed that this has become necessary”.

“From this point forward, those making selfish decisions are risking more than their reputations,” he said, making clear the government’s firm resolve to contain wayward actions that are potentially endangering many other people.

BC COVID-19 case report (dashboard) on August 20, 2020 [BC Centre for Disease Control]

Indeed, the spikes in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks is evidence of spread from the private parties and other gatherings where physical distancing has clearly been disregarded. Yesterday’s new case count was 80, and over 100 cases were reported for August 15. The total case count of COVID infections in BC stands at 4,825 as of August 20.

Police and enforcement officers may issue tickets:

Violation tickets expand the Province’s enforcement toolkit to support the COVID-19 response. 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.

Fines in place for the duration of the pandemic:

In addition to fines being issued by police, for the duration of the pandemic (expected to last another year or two) that function can also be executed by local bylaw officers and civil servants who deal directly with the public such as liquor, cannabis and gaming inspectors, community safety unit inspectors and conservation officers.

WorkSafe BC “through its authority and tools” can also enforce the new fines, said Farnworth. That means that breaches of physical distancing and other guidelines in businesses can be supported by enforcement beyond business owners trying to do that themselves (such as asking people to maintain distances in stores and restaurants).

We are “building a compliance machine” that will put a stop to “bad actors”, said Farnworth.

The limit on the number of people at gatherings has always been 50. But within that there still has to be physical distancing of two metres between people.

Indoor gatherings at private homes, in event venues, within rental accommodation (such as houseboats and airbnb accommodations) are included in the scope of the new regulations, and will be watched.

The State of Emergency in BC is presently in effect to end of day September 1, 2020. For months it has been continually renewed for two-week periods.

===== Private parties and events over 50 people:

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.

===== Tickets to individuals:

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.

===== Getting even tougher:

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.

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