Bylaw officers will be armed with education and the absence of a state of local emergency won’t change much for the City of Kamloops as the municipality continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those were some of the answers Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian had for reporters on the steps of city hall on Friday, a day after new ministerial orders were handed down by Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth.
Farnworth said one of the new measures enables municipal bylaw officers to help ensure compliance with social-distancing orders, which could carry fines or jail time.
However the written version of the order doesn’t permit bylaw officers to detain people contravening those rules, nor can they issue fines.
Rather, the order enables bylaw officers to monitor places that have been closed to the public during the pandemic, issue warnings and report contraventions to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“There seems to be some inconsistency between what the minister said about the ability to fine,” Christian said, noting the city has received many inquiries about on those powers.
When it comes to enforcing social-distancing measures, Christian said education is the city’s best tool.
“Many of the people that we see congregating are not people who would have the means to pay a fine anyway, nor are they people we want to incarcerate, nor do we have the capacity to incarcerate people,” Christian said.
He said bylaw officers conduct wellness checks on people living on the streets, which will continue.
The city closed Hillside Stadium earlier this week due to the public’s lack of compliance on social- distancing requirements.
Christian said city staff noticed a number of people continuing to play soccer on the field and gather in groups to walk around the track at the stadium. He said the municipality won’t hesitate to close other facilities if non-compliance persists.
“We want people to be able to get outdoors, but just by themselves or with their family units,” Christian said.
Also included in the province’s orders is the suspension of all local states of emergency —except for City of Vancouver, which has its own community charter — to better co-ordinate emergency response between cities and the province.
Christian told reporters that move does not change any of the restrictions the city had put in place under its state of local emergency, which was in effect from March 20 to March 27. Those restrictions included closing numerous public buildings to the public and prohibiting playgrounds to be used.
In addition, there is the potential use of city facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic for self-isolation, testing, medical care, warehousing and distribution. Christian said Sandman Centre and Tournament Capital Centre have been identified for those purposes.
“There’s some other facilities within the community that could be put in to play [and] those decisions would be made by the EOC [Emergency Operations Centre] on the request of the Interior Health Authority,” Christian said.