Education first, then RCMP enforcement for COVID home restrictions

"Yes people can complain if there is a large gathering about which they have concerns." RCMP have used the orders at least once already.

Police in the Peace region say their primary focus is education, not enforcement, when it comes to the province's new COVID-19 health orders on home gathering.

The order made Oct. 26 limits house visitors to six, enforceable by police and bylaw officers, and with fines up to $2,000.

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In Fort St. John, RCMP officers have used the orders at least once, shutting down a party on 74 Street on Halloween, though no fines were issued.

“RCMP did attend to that residence in response to a complaint and provided warnings as there were greater than six people present at the residence who did not reside there,” said detachment commander Insp. Tony Hanson. “Fines were not issued in this case as the focus remains on education and the homeowner was co-operative.”

Neither Fort St. John or Dawson Creek has received any bylaw related complaints.

Dawson Creek RCMP Staff Sgt. Damon Werrell says there have been few calls in the city for health order contraventions. 

“As with any enforcement option, education is always the preferred method with enforcement being the last option and only if necessary,” said Werrell.

“To date we have received very few calls of any contraventions in our area, none of which required enforcement.”

Hudson's Hope Cpl. Rob Gardner says the detachment hasn't any calls for enforcement, adding any reporting would have to be done through Northern Health. 

"They'd have to report it to Northern Health first," said Gardner.

"Because we just don't know who's got confirmed cases, or who's rumoured to have cases."

Northern Health spokesperson Eryn Collins says the orders remain enforceable and people can complain about large gatherings - regardless of COVID-19 positive or negative status.

“The orders are enforceable by a variety of authorities, and yes people can complain if there is a large gathering about which they have concerns,” says Collins.

As of Tuesday, there were 45 active cases of COVID-19 in northern B.C., with recent exposures reported at the Rotary Manor care home in Dawson Creek, and at the school in Hudson's Hope.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s health officer, reported 998 new cases and five more deaths across B.C. since Saturday, with only 11 of those new cases in the north.

Over the weekend, Henry put in new social and business restrictions in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser health regions, as a majority of new cases have been linked to transmission in people’s homes, workplaces, food processing facilities, retail outlets, public venues, and indoor group physical activities.

Henry said the province's immediate focus on enforcing the home restrictions is in the Fraser Health region, and that they were needed to get through the respiratory season.

"For a small number of people who may choose to disregard the order, enforcement will be stepped up, and we will be looking at how we make sure that people do take this seriously," Henry said. "The orders are enforcebale by bylaw officers, police officers, and environmental health officers."

Elsewhere in northern B.C., Prince George RCMP fined a 51-year-old man on Halloween after an “out of control” house party with 50 youth ended in a fight. Several were injured and treated for alcohol poisoning, and the man was fined $2,300 for violating health orders.

tsummer@ahnfsj.ca

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