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B.C. police want 'very clear direction' on upcoming COVID travel restrictions

Last Updated Apr 21, 2021 at 7:10 am PDT

Lights of police car in night time. (Source: iStock)

Police have concerns about how to enforce B.C.'s coming COVID-19 travel ban, including its impact on the BIPOC community

Head of B.C. Police Association worried about position officers are being put in

Province says periodic roadblocks could be set up at places like BC Ferries terminals; more details coming on Friday

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – With more details on B.C.’s upcoming travel restrictions expected Friday, police are calling for the province to provide very clear direction on how they’re supposed to stop people.

The president of both the Vancouver Police Union and the B.C. Police Association says there were concerns from members after measures were first announced by Premier John Horgan on Monday.

“Obviously, today was a day of reflection and a number of higher-level discussions around what this was going to look like moving forward, and obviously more of that’s going to be coming out this Friday,” union head Ralph Kaiser told NEWS 1130 on Tuesday.

The public safety minister clarified on Tuesday that the province was “examining the use of periodic roadblocks only” and that police would not be randomly stopping people on roads to make sure they aren’t travelling outside their health region during the pandemic.

However, Kaiser says concerns remain, particularly around how these measures could impact the BIPOC community

He wants things to be spelled out very clearly on Friday, saying he’s not particularly pleased with the position new measures puts his officers in.

“An arbitrary, random stop, in essence, would be construed along the same lines as a street check,” he explained. “So obviously we’re very aware that this could have implications for our members and we’re concerned about it. There obviously has to be some very clear direction and guidelines as to how this is supposed to take place if it’s going to take place.”

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth explained on Tuesday that periodic roadblocks could be set up at places like BC Ferries terminals or along Highway 1 leaving the Lower Mainland.

He said that the intention of these measures was to “discourage recreational and leisure travel – not punish people” and that the province was “not interested in disrupting commuters and people going about their lives.”

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Kaiser says implementing such measures could be challenging.

“I am hoping for clear direction because obviously this is going to be difficult if our members are going to be expected to act on this order, what implications that has for our members,” he explained, noting members of the public also likely won’t be too happy if police are going to potentially stop and ticket them.

He points out there are questions not just around the actual process, but also around the legality of such measures.

Some lawyers have said that these proposed travel measures could possibly be challenged by people who are stopped and fined.

“When we look at a random, arbitrary stop by police of a citizen, is that allowed? And the answer generally is no, unless it’s for a lawful purpose. And so what is that lawful purpose?” Kaiser added. “There’s clear decisions by way of the Supreme Court of Canada around us making those stops, specifically to prevent the carnage on our highways in this country around impaired driving, and I don’t think we’re at that level by way of a public health order giving us the authority to make that sort of stop.”


He believes there will likely be challenges if people are ticketed.

Police departments across the province will be waiting for the Emergency Program Act order before taking any action, according to the province.

More details of the plan are expected on Friday.

-With files from Lasia Kretzel