The provincial government has clearly defined the role local governments and their bylaw enforcement officers can play in relation to public health orders being issued to help contain the spread of COVID-19.
While bylaw officers cannot detain anyone as a result of a contravention or suspected contravention of a public health order or issue a fine or penalty, they can provide assistance by monitoring facilities and areas now closed to the public, and provide warnings, information and advice to members of businesses and the public.
They can also pass along information regarding suspected contraventions to provincial health authorities for a follow up.
“Local governments are key partners in ensuring the provincial health officer’s orders are obeyed so people in our communities can stay healthy,” said Mike Farnworth, the provincial public safety and solicitor general last week.
“It’s important that communities, and those responsible for compliance, have clear and consistent guidelines to enforce the provincial health officer’s orders so businesses can adapt their workplaces and help keep people safe.”
The province is also reassigning employees normally doing liquor and cannabis control and licensing inspections, gambling enforcement and investigations and community safety personnel.
For its part, the District of Houston, in a provided statement, said its bylaw services are running as normal.
“Bylaws and public health orders will be enforced by utilizing our existing staffing resources and enforcement tools such as education or ticketing” as outlined in an existing bylaw, it said.
“Bylaw enforcement complaints can be directed to the municipal office at 250-845-2238 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Speaking last week, Houston RCMP detachment commander Sergeant Mark Smaill said residents of the area are showing great respect regarding measures to slow or contain the spread of COVID-19.
“There’s a huge education component associated with this,” he said.
“We’ve been in touch with our communities — the District of Houston, the Village of Granisle, the indigenous communities — and have offered our help if required.”
A complete breakdown of compliance and enforcement through the BC Centre for Disease Control and accurate up to the end of March is available at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/health/about-bc-s-health-care-system/office-of-the-provincial-health-officer/covid-19/compliance_and_enforcement_guidance_march_31_2020.pdf