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B.C. government ‘fine-tuning’ its enforcement of COVID-19 emergency orders

The B.C. government says it is fine-tuning enforcement provisions for orders on face coverings, gatherings and events, and food and liquor serving premises.

These changes are designed to provide greater clarity and certainty for enforcement officers and violators who are ticketed under the orders, explains a news release. 

In December 2020, the Province announced that British Columbians caught flouting COVID-19 restrictions and deemed guilty will immediately be sent to collections.

Previously, payment reminders may be sent to guilty offenders for up to a year before the overdue account is sent to collections. ICBC will now eliminate this reminder period and instead send unpaid files directly to collections as soon as the initial 30-day payment or dispute period ends, or an offender is found guilty in court.

Clarify emergency orders

The COVID-19 orders fall under the Emergency Program Act. The new changes simplify the language and make the orders, and what constitutes a contravention, easier to understand.

The intent of the orders remains unchanged and will continue to allow violation tickets to be issued to non-compliant persons, owners and operators, and hosts to ensure public safety and alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes include:

  • more clarity around the specific prohibitions found in public health orders for gatherings and events and for food and liquor serving premises; and
  • an amended face coverings order, with an additional exemption for persons who need to remove a face covering to communicate with a person who is hearing impaired.

No other substantive policy changes have been made.

Under current public health orders, police and provincial enforcement officers can issue the following: 

* $2,300 tickets to hosts/organizers who do not comply with the provincial health officer’s (PHO) orders;

* $230 tickets to patrons/attendees who do not comply with the PHO orders;

* $230 tickets for contravening the face coverings order; and

* $230 tickets for abusive or belligerent behaviour and/or for refusing to comply with the direction of enforcement officers.

In addition, courts can impose penalties of up to $10,000 and/or up to one-year imprisonment for egregious offences.

B.C. formally extends provincial state of emergency again due to COVID-19

Earlier this week, the Province of British Columbia formally extended its provincial state of emergency, allowing health officials to continue to use extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act (EPA) to support the Province’s COVID-19 pandemic response.

The state of emergency is extended through the end of the day on Jan. 19, 2021, to allow staff to take the government to take actions to keep British Columbians safe.

The extension of the provincial state of emergency is based on recommendations from B.C.’s health and emergency management officials. The original declaration was made on March 18, 2020, the day after Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer (PHO), declared a public health emergency.

B.C. is currently in the longest state of emergency in provincial history. 

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