The association representing RCMP members said it has “grave concerns” with the provincial government’s plans to employ police road checks to enforce pandemic-related travel restrictions, which come into force on Friday, April 23.
Brian Sauvé, president of the National Police Federation, issued a statement, noting the federation has written to Solicitor General Mike Farnworth with its concerns.
“Since the official announcement of these travel restrictions, the National Police Federation has been hearing loud and clear from a growing number of RCMP members, asking us to oppose this proposed order,” Sauvé said. “In addition to shouldering an already heavy and increasing workload, participating in enforcement roadblocks puts even greater pressure on limited resources and puts our members at further risk of exposure and possible infection.”
Announcement of travel restrictions in B.C. this week have been confusing to many. Premier John Horgan initially said there would be random “audits” involving police stopping and checking vehicles to ensure occupants are not engaging in non-essential travel between health authorities.
That was followed by a clarification from Farnworth, who said there would not be random stops, but that there would be checkpoints at places like BC Ferries terminals and Highway 1 in Hope, where the route splits into three directions into the Interior Health region.
Farnworth is expected to have specific information on travel restrictions at a Friday press conference.
But Sauvé said another concern among members is the fact police have been building on relationships with vulnerable and racialized communities.
“The ambiguity and potentially negative impacts of these orders risk reversing this progress,” Sauvé said, noting Ontario last week announced a similar measure, only to have police departments across the province reject the order.
“They explained in no uncertain terms that Ontario police officers had no appetite to act on enhanced powers that are typically found in police states, and that doing so would erode a currently fragile public trust, especially with vulnerable and racialized communities,” Sauvé said.
The next day, the Ontario government amending the police powers to allow officers to stop people only if they are suspected of participating in a prohibited organized event that includes large numbers of people.
On Thursday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford issued an apology and conceded his government made a mistake in initially empowering police to stop and check anybody outside their homes.
The National Police Federation was in 2019 certified to represent the roughly 20,000 RCMP members across Canada and internationally. It is the largest police labour relations organization in Canada, the second-largest in North America and the first independent national association to represent RCMP members.