Solicitor general reveals additional details about B.C. travel ban roadchecks

Solicitor general reveals additional details about B.C. travel ban roadchecks
CHEK

B.C.’s solicitor general revealed more rules surrounding the province’s “unprecedented” ban on travel between select health regions on Friday.

Specifically, Mike Farnworth addressed roadchecks that will be set up on highway corridors that connect the three regions. Under the new rules, the Northern Health and Interior Health authorities will be viewed as one region, as will the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions.

Farnworth said roadchecks would only be set up on highway corridors connecting those zones, and not in places like downtown Vancouver.

Those pulled over at a roadcheck may be asked to provide their name, address and licence as well as secondary documentation, such as a document to confirm their residential address if they’ve recently moved.

Documentation regarding travel will not be required, though police can verbally ask for the purpose of travel, and passengers won’t be required to provide any information at all.

“If police have reasonable grounds to believe you are about to leave your regional zone or are already travelling outside your health authority for non-essential purposes, they can direct you to to stay within your region or to leave the authority at that time,” said Farnworth.

Failure to comply with requirements at a road check could net drivers a $230 fine while violating the travel order will result in a $575 fine.

“The primary goal of these roadchecks is to educate and deter people from travelling for non-essential reasons,” said Farnworth.

He also said while travel within health authority regions, like Island Health, is not legally restricted, Victoria residents should not travel to the Comox Valley, for example.

“The message is still clear,” said Farnworth. “Stay local.”

He also addressed concerns about such roadchecks disproportionately affecting racialized communities by saying pedestrians won’t be stopped for arbitrary checks, and police aren’t authorized to record personal information unless enforcement is taken.

The roadchecks will be carried out by a dedicated division assembled by the BC RCMP, with new resources and funds from the province. BC RCMP ‘E’ Division will decide where the roadchecks take place.

However, there will not be roadchecks at BC Ferries terminals heading to Vancouver Island. Farnworth said ensuring passengers are travelling for essential purposes will be left to BC Ferries staff and regional police “as needed.”

Asked whether she was concerned about the onus being on ticket agents, BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall said the “vast majority” of passengers have been respectful of the new rules.

“We’ve had a few occasions, a handful of occasions where we’ve had to deny travel, and those situations, it was more that the person didn’t understand the order that is currently in police,” she said.

She added attendants have the option to call local police should they need assistance, but so far, none have had to do that.

Jack Bruckman, executive director of the union representing BC Ferries workers, said they have some apprehension over the new order and maintained staff are not to be seen as “enforcers.”

“Since this began last year, we’ve been…focused on the best safety possible and following all provincial health orders and guidelines,” they said. “We just want folks to use good common sense, and make good choices, and be cooperative.”

Farnworth said traffic was down more than 25 per cent fleet-wide on the first weekend the travel restrictions were in effect, and Marshall said that number has been more like 30 per cent over the last week.

Hotel operators and resort communities have also let the province know they’ve seen “significant declines” in out-of-region visitors, while BC Parks reported more than 5,000 cancellations in the past few weeks.

The National Police Federation has previously criticized the order, saying it lacked clarity and that its RCMP members in B.C. are at risk of public backlash and exposure to the virus due a slow immunization rollout for officers.

However, the president of the federation said Friday in response to Farnworth’s announcement that it appeared many of his concerns had been addressed.

“We are pleased to see this order address many of our concerns and is significantly reduced from the minister’s initial enforcement-centred proposal, and is focused on information and encouraging people not to travel between regions,” said Brian SauvĂ©. “We will continue to work with the RCMP on its implementation and to addressing member concerns.”

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has said Indigenous, Black and racialized communities could be at risk of negative harmful impacts when dealing with police.

However, on Friday, Farnworth maintained the province sought input from racialized communities.

“It was to outline the measures that we were looking at to put in place, to also communicate some of the issues that they had raised,” he said.

The ban on travel is set to expire at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, May 25.

A full list of exemptions under the health order follows, including two additional exemptions introduced Friday (bolded).

  • carrying out a work-related purpose, including volunteer work
  • moving to a different principal residence or assisting a person to move for that purpose
  • commercially transporting goods
  • receiving health-care services or social services or assisting someone to receive those services
  • attending court
  • complying with a court order
  • spending parenting time with a minor child
  • accessing child care
  • travelling for the purpose of avoiding the risk of abuse or violence
  • visiting by an essential visitor or a social visitor as provided in the guidance of the Ministry of Health set out in a document titled Ministry of Health – Overview of Visitors in Long-Term Care and Seniors’ Assisted Living that went into effect on April 1, 2021
  • attending classes or receiving training at a post-secondary institution or school
  • responding to an emergency or a critical incident, including incidents that involve search and rescue operations
  • providing care or assistance to a person who requires care or assistance because of:a psychological, behavioural or health condition; or
    a physical, cognitive or mental impairment.
  • visiting by an essential visitor as provided in the guidance of the Ministry of Health set out in a document titled Ministry of Health – Overview of Visitors in Long-Term Care and Seniors’ Assisted Living that was in effect on April 1, 2021
    attending a funeral service
  • travelling under the authority of a variance of an order issued by the provincial health officer under the Public Health Act if the variance was made before this section comes into force
  • travelling by residents of the local health areas of Bella Coola Valley or Central Coast to Port Hardy to obtain essential goods and supplies
  • travelling by residents of the local health area of Hope to Chilliwack to obtain essential goods and supplies
  • travelling by residents of the Nisga’a Health Authority region into the Northern-Interior Health Authority region
  • returning to one’s own principal residence

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 30, 2021.

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