The City of Surrey has yet to say if it will be using bylaw officers to enforce social-distancing rules.
However, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth issued a series of ministerial orders Thursday morning (March 26) as part of his powers under the Emergency Program Act. A release from the ministry says it’s “to ensure a co-ordinated reponse to COVID-19 across all levels of government for the duration of the provincial emergency.”
Those ministerial orders include bylaw enforcement that would enable “municipal bylaw officers to support enforcement of the provincial health officer’s orders for business closures and gatherings, in line with offences under the Public Health Act.”
Amber Stowe, communications with the city, said Thursday (March 26), that Farnworth’s ministerial orders “just recently came out and everything is being worked out.”
“Things are changing quickly, right.”
The Now-Leader has asked the City of Surrey about its bylaw enforcement plans several in the past week.
Surrey residents continue to voice their concern about the lack of social distancing in the city, including a “full-blown” soccer game at a Surrey park, a party in a residential neighbourhood and alleged wedding celebrations at a Surrey business centre and a home.
The City of Surrey closed skateparks, playgrounds and courts, but not sports fields. The fields are closed for organized sports.
It was on March 16 that the city closed on recreation facilities indefinitely.
While several municipalities in B.C. have declared a local state of emergency, Farnworth’s latest ministerial orders have made those void. However, Vancouver’s local state of emergency will remain because it is governed by a different charter from other B.C. municipalities.
Previously, the City of Delta declared a local state of emergency on March 19. Since then, the city and Mayor George Harvie have issued a number of orders under the local state of emergency, including mandating local stores set aside time every day for seniors and others who are the most vulnerable to COVID-19 to shop separate from from the general public, and store managers take steps to discourage overbuying of all goods and limit the quantity of “key items” that a single person may purchase in one day.
Delta will continue to go ahead with its bylaw amendments, allowing the city to ticket and fine people not following the provincial health officer’s orders. Final reading and adoption will be Friday afternoon at 4 p.m.
The city will also be setting up a phone line to report gatherings of people, and get COVID-19 information as well, for Monday morning. The Delta Police Department will also be starting active patrols of frequented spots.
“Many local governments, First Nations and partners have stepped up to make sure they have prepared to protect their communities from the impacts of COVID-19. Today’s measures will make sure communities are taking necessary steps, in co-ordination with the Province, to get ready should more action be required to combat COVID-19,” said Farnworth.
The Minister of Public Safety declared a provincial state of emergency on March 18, the day after the Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry declared a public health emergency. The province has declared states of emergency in 1998, 2003, 2017 and 2018 – all related to wildfires.
In Farnworth’s March 18 announcement, he announced that municipal bylaw officers would be enable to be “e-deployed to support enforcement of the provincial health officer’s orders and directives carrying fines of over $25,000 or jail, to be determined by the courts under the authority of the Public Health Act.”
– With files from James Smith