B.C. Premier John Horgan is suggesting Canadians with U.S. licence plates ride the bus, use a bike or change their plates to avoid constant harassment.
In response to a question about Americans being harassed for their U.S. plates, Horgan said the harasser should be kind but the car owner should also take measures.
“With respect to those that have off-shore plates and are feeling harassed. I would suggest perhaps public transit. I would suggest they get their plates changed. I would suggest they ride a bike. I can’t tell people how to respond when they see off-shore plates,” Horgan said.
“I think that those that are declaring they come from somewhere else through their licence plates should be mindful of that are act accordingly.”
There has been an increase in incidents of drivers with American licence plates being on the receiving end of verbal abuse. The border between the United States and Canada has been closed since March for all but essential travellers due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19.
Anyone coming to Canada from outside the country is legally required to quarantine for 14 days. There have been reports of drivers telling border officials they are driving directly to Alaska but staying in B.C. instead without quarantining.
But most Americans in Canada are here with family or for work and plan on returning home as soon as the border reopens.
“It’s best we don’t blame people for the licence plates on their cars but if you are living in British Columbia and plan on staying in British Columbia the appropriate thing would be to get a B.C. drivers licence and a B.C. plate on your vehicle,” Horgan said.
“If you feel that travelling with our plates identifying yourself as someone from away at a time of heightened anxiety, I think it is incumbent on them to lessen the anxiety.”
There are substantial costs for Americans who have purchased a vehicle in the United States to register it in Canada. The vehicle must be registered in Canada and this includes additional duties.
Horgan says the primary message should be for those harassing the drivers to be kind.
“We don’t know the circumstances when we come upon individuals. We don’t know why they would have plates that are not consistent with British Columbia. We should act accordingly. Be respectful. Keep your distance if you believe someone is a threat to you, you should keep your distance,” Horgan said.
“Be calm, be kind and we will be safe.”