The provincial government has authorized site-specific road checks on travel corridors between regions to help enforce non-essential travel restrictions that were announced on April 23.
The restrictions were implemented to help curb spread of the novel coronavirus and its variants.
On Friday (April 30), Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced authorization of site-specific, clearly marked police road checks to further stem recreational travel.
Under the order, non-essential travel is banned between three regional zones in the province:
• 1. Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley (Fraser Health and Coastal Health regions);
• Vancouver Island (Island Health region);
• Northern/Interior (Interior Health and Northern Health regions).
During the first weekend of the new travel restrictions, BC Ferries vehicle traffic was down more than 25 per cent fleet-wide and passenger traffic was down more than 30 per cent, compared to the weekend before the order was implemented.
Farnworth said resort communities and accommodation businesses have contacted the province to note significant declines in out-of-region visitors and bookings, while BC Parks has reported more than 5,000 cancellations in the past few weeks.
Farnworth said road checks may be put in place at any time until the order is lifted at 12:01 a.m. on May 25, at the end of the Victoria Day long weekend. He said road checks may be set up on highway corridors that connect different regions of the province to remind travellers of the order, including the site east of Hope, where highways 1, 3 and 5 intersect to carry travellers between the Lower Mainland the Interior.
"These restrictions on non-essential travel are saving lives, it's in the best interest of all British Columbians to follow them and I know most are, given the significant drop we've seen in out-of-region travel," Farnworth said.
"But it is also important that we get enforcement right and consider concerns raised by the public and incorporate the feedback received from racialized communities. I want to be clear that the intent of this order is not punishment, but rather education around non-essential travel prevention to protect us all from the spread of COVID-19. My hope is that every British Columbian realizes the tremendous progress we can make if we stay close to home, and we can give the heroes in our health-care system a fighting chance at putting the current spike in cases behind us."
When stopped at a road check restricting non-essential travel, police will only have the authority to request:
• a driver's name, address and driver's license;
• any available documentation regarding driver's name and address (for example, secondary identification that confirms a driver's residential address if recently moved);
• the purpose of the driver's travel (documentation regarding travel is not required).
Police cannot engage in arbitrary vehicle or street checks. If police have reasonable grounds to believe a person has travelled for a non-essential purpose, they can direct the traveller to turn around and leave the region. If compliance measures are deemed necessary by police, fines can be handed out. At the discretion of police, a contravention of this Emergency Program Act travel order may be subject to a $575 fine.
Farnworth said the RCMP will deploy a trained, dedicated team to manage and enforce road check locations and ensure interactions are in line with the intent of the order and all existing police policy and police standards.
On April 22, the National Police Federation, which represents the roughly 20,000 RCMP members across Canada and internationally, expressed concern with plans by the provincial government to use police for road checks.
“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,” NPF president Brian Sauvé said.
B.C. RCMP Chief Superintendent Dave Attfield said the force is in the process of determining where checks will be conducted to ensure public and officer safety, noting the checks will be conducted by a dedicated team and will not reduce police service in the communities served by the RCMP.
Attfield said all police personnel and partner agencies taking part in the checks will be following COVID-19 protocols to ensure the safety of everyone.
“The emphasis will be on informing travellers of the order, identifying whether or not the purpose for travel is essential as listed in the order and providing every opportunity for travellers to turn around voluntarily,” Attfield said. “It is anticipated that the vast majority of travellers will voluntarily comply, minimizing the need for enforcement.”
Attdfield confirmed police will not be conducting random checks of vehicles or people, adding enforcement will only occur at the designated road check locations on highways 1, 3, 5 and 99, near to the boundaries between the combined Coastal and Fraser health regions and the combined Northern and Interior health regions.
He said signs placed well ahead of the road checks will warn travellers and provide them the opportunity to turn around if the purpose of tBC RCMP website and on social media channels.
While the travel order puts legal limits only on travel between regional zones, health and government officials are urging residents to stay within their communities.
Facts about on non-essential travel limits in B.C.
This order applies to non-essential travel. It does not apply to:
• moving to a different principal residence or assisting a person to move for that purpose;
• carrying out a work-related purpose, including volunteer work;
• commercially transporting goods;
• receiving health-care services or social services or assisting someone to receive those services;
• attending court;
• complying with a court order;
• exercising parental responsibilities, including spending parenting time with a minor child;
• accessing child care;
• attending classes or receiving training through a post-secondary institution or school;
• responding to emergencies or critical incidents, including incidents that involve search and rescue operations;
• providing care or assistance to a person who requires care or assistance because of a psychological, behavioural or health condition or a physical, cognitive or mental impairment;
• visiting by an essential visitor or a social visitor as provided in the guidance of the Ministry of Health;
• attending a funeral service;
• travelling under the authority of a variance of an order issued by the provincial health officer under the Public Health Act if the variance was made before this order comes into force;
• travelling for the purpose of avoiding the risk of abuse or violence;
• travelling by residents of the local health area of Bella Coola Valley or Central Coast to Port Hardy to obtain essential goods and supplies;
• travelling by residents of the local health area of Hope to Chilliwack to obtain essential goods and supplies;
• travelling by residents of the Northern Health Authority region into the Nis×a'a Health Authority region;
• travelling by residents of the Nis×a'a Health Authority region into the Northern-Interior Health Authority region;
• returning to a person's own principal residence.