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Nasty notes left for drivers with Alberta licence in B.C. as COVID-19 continues

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WATCH: Tensions over travel during the pandemic have boiled over in some parts of British Columbia leading to vigilantism. It has prompted local leaders in the Shuswap to speak out urging kindness

It seems the coronavirus pandemic has led to an increase in out-of-province intolerance in B.C.

Last week, police in Trail released information on a verbal argument at a local plaza regarding a man questioning a woman’s presence in B.C. after seeing her Alberta licence plate.

Police say the man was worried about possible COVID-19 transmission from Alberta, but noted that the woman had been living in B.C., but had not yet changed over to B.C. licence plates.

READ MORE: Vancouver Island MP joins growing call for ban on non-essential BC Ferries travel

“The B.C. RCMP are mindful that many British Columbians and Albertans alike reside in one province and commute to the neighbouring province for essential work,” police said in a press release.

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“The public should respect that they may not have all the information regarding someone’s personal circumstances or purpose for being outside of their home province.”

Then came separate incidents in Revelstoke and Golden of notes being left on vehicles with Alberta plates.

In Revelstoke, recent B.C. transplant Matt Graham said the note was left on his vehicle, which was also keyed.

The note said” *** off back to Alberta! Supposed to be not doing non-essential travel ***holes! **** off.”

A man in Revelstoke, B.C., holds a handwritten note that was left on his vehicle last week. The man recently moved to Revelstoke, but the vehicle had Alberta licence plates.
A man in Revelstoke, B.C., holds a handwritten note that was left on his vehicle last week. The man recently moved to Revelstoke, but the vehicle had Alberta licence plates. Submitted

Graham said he took the job in November, and that his girlfriend is a nurse and they couldn’t move together at the same time. So they kept their house in Calgary and he travelled back and forth.

“Long story short, we were supposed to move in April, and because [the coronavirus pandemic] happened, we decided to wait an extra month,” Graham told Global News.
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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Kelowna International Airport traffic down 96 per cent

In between, his vehicle was keyed around three weeks ago, then the note was left underneath the windshield wipers last week.

“I was initially kind of shocked,” Graham said of the note. “I never really had that happen before to me. It was out of left field. It wasn’t expected.”

Asked if this was licence plate-related, he said, “absolutely. That’s the direct reason why I got it.”

Graham called the note negative, adding he later trashed it, but said “there is a bright side to this story. The people of Revelstoke are really friendly and awesome.”

He also said “I want people to realize that I’m a Canadian, you’re a Canadian. We live in the same country.”

Graham also said he was raised in B.C., then lived in Alberta, but he’s now back.

“What does it matter what colour my plates are?” he asked. “That’s the biggest thing.”

This note was left on the window of a vehicle in Golden, B.C., that had Alberta plates. The woman driving the vehicle was a long-time resident who was borrowing the vehicle while trying to sell hers.
This note was left on the window of a vehicle in Golden, B.C., that had Alberta plates. The woman driving the vehicle was a long-time resident who was borrowing the vehicle while trying to sell hers. Submitted

In nearby Golden, it was almost the same story for Jessica Grey, a resident who’s lived in that community for 15 years.

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The co-owner of a local media communications company, Grey said she also received a note saying go home. However, in her case, she was driving a relative’s vehicle at the time while trying to sell hers.

Grey said the note was left while on a weekly trip for grocery shopping.

“It was just a note stuck to the driver’s window that said go home,” Grey told Global News.

She said she won’t drive that vehicle anymore, “mostly because I’ve heard more about other peoples’ incidents. The note was a bit of a wake-up call for me.”

Alberta tour operators prepare for a year of losses
Alberta tour operators prepare for a year of losses
Grey said the note was harmless, but brought it up because “I think we can do better than that,” adding “even though it was a good note, it takes away from that good spirit [people are showing during the coronavirus pandemic].”
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Earlier this month, just before the May long weekend, both the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen and the Regional District of Columbia Shuswap asked visitors to avoid those areas.

And that was on top of guidelines given earlier by health officials in Alberta and B.C. to avoid non-essential travel.

In Kelowna, local RCMP said they hadn’t seen or heard of notes being left on vehicles with Alberta plates, nor of any interactions like what happened in Trail.

The RCMP spokesperson for the Southeast District, Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey, said he was only aware of two situations reported to police in the Columbia Valley area, including where a man spat towards a vehicle reportedly displaying an Alberta plate, but not hitting it.

He added while there may be such reports shared on social media platforms, they haven’t been reported to local police.

O’Donaghey also said if someone has been a victim of such an act, they are encouraged to report the circumstances to local police so that it may be properly investigated and documented as an official record of the incident.

Alberta in discussions with other provinces about travelling between provinces
Alberta in discussions with other provinces about travelling between provinces

However, he also said it’s important to note that signage is in place along provincial highways to discourage non-essential travel in the area and the RCMP wish to re-enforce that message.

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Still, though, are Alberta vehicles being unfairly tagged because they simply have different licence plates?

For example, it’s common knowledge that the Okanagan is heavily frequented by residents from other parts of B.C., yet there haven’t been any reports of B.C. vehicles being hit with the same messages.

In a 2017 facts and figures sheet for Kelowna and the Central Okanagan that was created by Tourism Kelowna, it said 82.1 per cent of visitors to the area were Canadian.

Of that 82 per cent, 38.6 per cent were from B.C., with Alberta coming in second at 26 per cent. Ontario was third at 7.5 per cent, with the rest of the country combining for 10 per cent.

READ MORE: Northwest Territories to ban non-essential travel over coronavirus pandemic

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Enter the District of Sicamous, which has embarked on a kindness campaign.

“A friendly reminder that no matter what is going on in the world, kindness is always essential,” the district said on social media.

“What if we stopped looking at licence plates and instead looked at the actual people around us, saw them for the individual human beings that they are, and gave them a smile, maybe even a nod hello?”

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What role did international travel play in Alberta’s COVID-19 spread?