Grand Forks Mounties will uphold the province’s new vaccine card system only if they’re called to act, according to Sgt. Darryl Peppler. The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary’s (RDKB’s) bylaw officer is meanwhile taking an educational approach in rural Grand Forks, Christina Lake and the West Boundary.
B.C.’s COVID Related Measures and Public Health acts authorize police, gaming officials and Conservation Officers to enforce health orders by Provincial Health Officer (PHO) Dr. Bonnie Henry, Peppler explained Wednesday, Sept. 15.
“We have the ability to (enforce the system) and, if required, we will do,” he said, qualifying that enforcement “will be on a case-by-case basis.”
“If we get a call from a business saying that they need help because a person inside is being unruly, we’ll attend and we’ll go from there.”
As of Monday, Sept. 13, British Columbians are required to show vaccine cards showing they’ve had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before accessing non-essential services like restaurants, bars and nightclubs, fitness centres and many indoor events. Affected services will require proof of two vaccinations starting Oct. 24.
Cafés and take-out restaurants are exempt from the system.
Premier John Horgan and PHO Henry announced the system late last month, when unvaccinated people accounted for 90 per cent of recent COVID-19 cases in B.C. The system is designed to reduce COVID-19 hospitalizations, which overwhelmingly occur in unvaccinated people, according to the Interior Health Authority and the BC Centre for Disease Control.
Peppler said recent directives from the BC RCMP’s Emergency Operations Centre clearly set out fines for people and businesses who flout the new rules.
In particular, the directives hold out a $230 fine for “abusive and belligerent behaviour” by anyone who tries to prevent or disrupt someone else from following or seeking compliance with a public health order, including the requirement to show one’s vaccine card.
Grand Forks RCMP hadn’t issued any fines as of Wednesday morning, Peppler said.
Peppler is reminding the public that private businesses have the right to refuse service to customers who refuse to comply with COVID-19 safety measures.
The RDKB is not authorized to enforce public health orders, spokesperson Frances Maika said Friday, Sept. 17. Brandy Rafuse, bylaw officer for the regional district, is instead explaining the orders to people she meets in the field.
“She’s been getting a couple calls and emails every day since the order came into effect,” Maika said, explaining that Rafuse’s job is to investigate and enforce RDKB bylaws only. That’s a big enough task for one person, Maika highlighted.
There are no proof of vaccine requirements for essential services in B.C., including grocery and retail stores, malls and government services. Canadians from out-of-province are required to show they’ve been immunized for non-essential services under the vaccine card system.
International travellers were required to show proof of vaccinations upon entering Canada before the system was proposed.
Midway RCMP were not available for comment when The Gazette went to press Monday, Sept. 20.
— With files from Tom Fletcher, Katya Slepian and The Canadian Press