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‘Call RCMP or bylaws’: B.C.’s new COVID-19 orders raise questions on enforcement

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WATCH: Global BC reporter Keith Baldrey asks Premier John Horgan how the province intends on keeping British Columbians apart following the implementation of new regional rules designed to keep people socially distanced from one another. – Nov 9, 2020

With people in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley having to pause all social gatherings outside of their immediate households, many in the public are questioning how the latest COVID-19 rules will be enforced.

During a public health emergency under the Public Health Act, orders can be enforced by police or other compliance and enforcement officials. People who don’t follow the order could be fined.

On Monday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said more people can enforce the new rules, including bylaw officers, RCMP officers, public safety officers, public health inspectors and WorkSafeBC inspectors, as past of both the Public Health Act and Emergency Program Act.

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Dr. Bonnie Henry on additional law enforcement of regional COVID-19 restrictions – Nov 9, 2020

Read more: B.C. reports 998 new COVID-19 cases over two days as hospitalizations surge

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“We want people and we need people to pay attention to these things, particularly now,” Henry said.

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When it comes to enforcement, officials are asking people that if they see someone violating a public health order to contact them.

Surrey RCMP Cpl. Joanie Sidhu told Global News there are two options — call the RCMP non-emergency line or the Surrey bylaw department.

“You can contact our non-emergency line, that’s the best way to get a hold of us and if you don’t want to contact us you can call the City of Surrey bylaws, but either of us,” she said, adding it is better to make the call than try to enforce the rules yourself.

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How is the pandemic is being managed in B.C – Nov 9, 2020

Sidhu said even on Friday, Surrey RCMP received a call after someone spotted a van filled with people arriving at a Whalley home.

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Officers checked on the house and found 15 people had gathered indoors for a party.

The person responsible for the party was fined $2,300, Sidhu said.

Read more: Lower Mainland rec centres suspend group physical activities amid new COVID-19 order

In Port Coquitlam, bylaw officers will be out and about checking on gatherings and restrictions.

“We have activated our bylaw officers again,” Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West said.

“Throughout the pandemic, they have been eyes and ears throughout the community and trying to deal with issues that have arisen.”

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Coronavirus: B.C. imposes 2-week regional ban on social gatherings, indoor activities – Nov 7, 2020

Henry added Monday that enforcement may be stepped up in areas such as workplaces where they saw previous outbreaks and where it can be difficult to socially-distance due to the nature of the work.

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“The focus is going to be in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health region, because that’s where we’re seeing community spread at a higher level now,” Henry added.