The local detachment is short-staffed. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Police powers in travel restriction orders too vague: Sparwood mayor

Sparwood’s mayor said it was not clear how the RCMP would factor into the new orders announced today

The new travel restrictions introduced on April 23 are not clear enough when it comes to enforcement by police and on the provincial border, according to Sparwood’s Mayor, David Wilks.

Police in B.C. have been given the authority to issue fines of $575 to people caught travelling outside of their home health authority without a valid reason starting from today, but Wilks said that it was unreasonable to expect police to be able to take on such a huge task given the number of travelers.

“I don’t believe that the Elk Valley detachment has the manpower to do any type of (additional) enforcement,” said Wilks, noting that the detachment which covers all of the Elk Valley and South Country was supposed to be manned by up to 18 officers, but were down to around a dozen. The Elk Valley detachment works on the border with Alberta.

“This detachment is struggling with manpower to begin with. Every detachment across the province is struggling with manpower issues, and the Elk Valley detachment is no different,” he said.

Wilks, who is a retired RCMP officer himself said that regular police work wasn’t going anywhere.

“It’s not as if nobody will commit a crime because the police have to go do random road checks, it doesn’t work that way.”

Wilks said that Minister Mike Farnworth’s likening random police checks on travellers between health authorities to checking for impaired drivers wasn’t a good comparison.

“It’s completely different as the police union said – and I completely agree with them as a retired member – when you’re doing a counterattack check-stop, you’re looking for a specific criminal offense which is impaired driving, whether by alcohol or drugs – in this case you’re just randomly stopping people and asking them where they are going.”

He also said that news from the B.C. Government that they would be putting up additional signage on the border with Alberta and between health regions wasn’t going to achieve much.

“We’ve had a sign up at the Alberta border for 14 months now. I don’t know what other sign they’re going to put up.”

The B.C. Government is not going to set up any roadblocks or checks on the border.

B.C. police forces have also said they take ‘exception’ to conducting any roadblocks or any random stops. Similar laws allowing police in Ontario to conduct random stops were rolled back only days after they were introduced, with police services there rejecting the orders.

More information on where the RCMP fall into the new orders is yet to be released, with a promise from Minister Farnworth that that information would be forthcoming next week.

Beyond the policing side of the new orders, Wilks said that given Sparwood and communities in the Elk Valley were a stone’s throw from the Alberta border, it remained problematic to enforce travel restrictions given the area’s reliance on Alberta for services and the number of Elk Valley workers that live across the border – a stance he has maintained throughout the pandemic.

“It’s a struggle, but the police will deal with it in the manner they see fit. We in border towns will continue to respect those coming in from out of province, especially essential workers that we rely on every day.

“There are hundreds of red and white plates in town…they’re all highly likely working at Teck.”

READ MORE: B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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