Smithers bylaw enforcement is patrolling the town to enforce the Province’s physical distancing directives, but won’t be handing out any tickets for violations.
“Right now the only direction that I have from [the Town] and actually from the Province in enforcement is strictly engagement and education, no fining, no detainment,” said Matt Davey, Smithers bylaw officer.
If people refuse to comply, there is a process, Davey explained. Violaters will be reported to BC Health and the provincial authority will decide on a course of action from there.
He noted that other municipal jurisdictions in other parts of Canada have passed bylaws to give themselves the authority to fine and detain people, but Smithers currently has no plans to do so.
“I don’t know where that’s coming from,” he said. “We certainly don’t have the authority to do that.”
Davey said he hasn’t seen much in the way of problems in any event.
“For us up here, where we live, it’s fairly easy for us to social distance,” he said. “But if you live in downtown Manhattan where there’s 4,000 people in a square kilometre, after a while it must seem a little bit like this is futile.”
He will be out daily, however, reminding people of the regulations.
“My real focus has been mainly parks because that’s where we see people out and about,” he said. “It’s really difficult to discern who are family members and who are friends. I see a lot of people out walking their dogs and stuff. I look for congregations of five people or more and just kind of monitor from an arm’s length those businesses that are open and that they’re practising appropriate measures and, actually, I’m finding that they’re all doing a really good job.”
Davey had three reminders for people. First, all complaints by the public about people violating the Province’s directives are supposed to funnel them through the provincial complaint line: 1-888-COVID19 (268-4319), who will give direction to municipal bylaw enforcement or police if followup is required.
He said he has yet to receive any calls from BC Health.
The second reminder is that all Town parks are closed including play fields.
“You don’t go throw a ball with your dog out in Chandler Park field,” he said. “We’ve posted signs at the entrance of all parks… on those signs it says access to the perimeter trails through the park is permitted, but do not stay, don’t linger. I went down to Riverside the other day and people were sitting on the benches. They can travel through, but they cannot stay in parks.”
Finally, Davey said, dogs in town must be on a leash.
“There’s already a bylaw in place that says your dog needs to be on a leash while you’re in town,” he explained. “Some people observe that and some don’t. It’s particularly important right now that people have their dog on a leash because if you’re out walking on a perimeter trail, it could lead to unintended contact with somebody else. Let’s say, your dog runs up to somebody else and you have to go pull him off.”
All of the regulations and regular updates are available on the Town of Smithers website.