Nanaimo RCMP receiving ‘numerous’ calls about vehicles with U.S. license plates

Nanaimo RCMP receiving 'numerous' calls about vehicles with U.S. license plates
Nicholas Pescod/CHEK News
A stock photo of a U.S. license plate.

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in many places around the United States, the Nanaimo RCMP say they’re receiving multiple calls a day about vehicles with U.S. license plates in the community.

According to Cpl. Jon Stuart of the Nanaimo RCMP, the detachment receives around five to six calls a day from people concerned about vehicles from the United States in the area.

“We have received numerous calls about U.S.-plated vehicles in our area. A U.S.-plated vehicle does not automatically mean an infraction under the Quarantine Act. Over the last two weeks, there have been 10 files generated in the Nanaimo area, Stuart told CHEK. “This does not cover off the many other callers that are directed to call CBSA to report the incidents.”

In recent weeks, there have been rising concerns about the number of vehicles with U.S. license plates that have been spotted on the Island. Some Canadian citizens returning home to Vancouver Island from the U.S. have also expressed concerns about being poorly treated simply because they have American license plates.

Under the Quarantine Act, anyone entering Canada — either by land, air, or sea— is required to isolate for 14 days including those arriving from the United States. Individuals who are “performing an essential job or function” are exempt from the act, which is currently in place until Aug. 31.

RELATED: Sightings of American travellers on Vancouver Island raises concerns

Stuart said Nanaimo RCMP officers won’t pull over a vehicle or go looking for a vehicle just because it has a U.S. license plate.

“Unless it is a traffic violation, we won’t go out and investigate,” he said. “But just someone seeing a U.S. plate doesn’t lend us to go out and chase the vehicle down.”

The Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) can request police departments to help them investigate people suspected of violating the Quarantine Act. Stuart said Nanaimo RCMP has not been asked by the CBSA to investigate anyone from the United States suspected of violating the act.

“It’s not to say that we haven’t been inquiring into people’s travel status and have been working on files but we haven’t had any direct requests from the CBSA or the public health officer to make those inquiries,” he said.

There are many reasons why a U.S.-plated vehicle would be in the community according to Stuart, who said it could be anything from a rental vehicle to someone who is actually a Canadian citizen that has returned home.

“We can’t just automatically assume that everyone with a U.S. plate is breaching the Quarantine Act,” he said.

RELATED: Saanich woman with US Plates dealing with angry residents

Other detachments and police departments on Vancouver Island say they have been getting similar calls from people concerned over U.S. plates as well.

Both the Oak Bay Police Department and Saanich Police Department said they have received a “few” calls regarding U.S. license plates in the community over the past few months but didn’t provide any numbers.

Const. Markus Anastasiades of the Saanich Police Department told CHEK they received “very few” calls and looked into them.

“In all of those situations, the owners of the vehicles actually resided in the Greater Victoria area or the B.C. mainland. There were no concerns related to COVID-19,” said Anastasiades.

“We will work with CBSA to follow-up on any concerns about recently returning travelers and the Quarantine Act,” he later added.

Oak Bay PD Deputy Chief Ray Bernoties said in addition to a few phone calls, they’ve received some e-mails from residents concerned about American vehicles in the community. He also said officers followed up on a report about someone from the United States suspected of violating the Quarantine Act while in Oak Bay.

“We have investigated a person who residents suspected was breaching quarantine, however, our investigation revealed that he had completed his quarantine in the interior and then returned home to Oak Bay,” said Bernoties.

Meanwhile, the Port McNeill RCMP said in a Facebook post last week that they have received “several calls” regarding Americans in their community.

“All out of country arrivals are to self-quarantine for fourteen days. We, the RCMP, conduct enforcement checks under the Quarantine Act to ensure compliance. In Port McNeill, we have conducted several of these checks on travelers in vehicles and on boats,” Port McNeill RCMP said on Facebook.

RELATED: Americans travelling through British Columbia on their way to Alaska or returning home should not stop in the province, says Horgan

Some departments, however, said they weren’t keeping track of the number of calls received or didn’t have any data to suggest a recent increase in people calling about U.S. plates.

West Shore RCMP told CHEK there was no data to support an increase in calls to police while VicPD said they don’t capture those types of calls and therefore it is not possible to provide specific data around calls regarding U.S.-plated vehicles.

“We are not investigating vehicles with U.S plates for the fact that they have U.S. plates and are present in B.C. There are many people in B.C. with American plates for a variety of reasons, and they are not necessarily violating the non-essential travel ban,” said Const. Cam MacIntyre of the Victoria Police Department.

At the end of the day, both the Saanich and Oak Bay police departments – along with the Nanaimo RCMP – are urging people not to jump to conclusions when seeing a vehicle from the United States.

“If someone emails and says there are some people from Kentucky driving around, we wouldn’t be inclined to do anything as people from Kentucky are allowed to drive around Oak Bay. There needs to be a reason to believe they’re breaching quarantine,” said Bernoties. “I have neighbours with Arizona plates. They quarantined for 14 days as required. They should not be stopped by police every time they leave their house now just for having Arizona plates. They are allowed to drive around.”

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Nicholas PescodNicholas Pescod

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