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Coquitlam RCMP steps up enforcement of COVID-19 breaches

Nine violation tickets were issued by Coquitlam RCMP in December
Coquitlam RCMP stock
Coquitlam RCMP serves the communities of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Anmore and Belcarra

Coquitlam RCMP has been stepping up its enforcement of COVID-19 public health orders, prompting nine violations across the Tri-Cities in December alone. 

On Dec. 4, a $1,150 ticket was issued to a Coquitlam resident for repeatedly breaching their mandatory 14-day quarantine after returning from outside of the country. “Police conducted checks and the individual was not at home,” stated Coquitlam RCMP spokesperson Const. Deanna Law in an email.

Police handed out the most tickets related to a breach of COVID-19 orders for social gatherings, with six tickets distributed to residents in December. 

Coquitlam RCMP, which covers the municipalities of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Anmore and Belcarra, also issued two fines for not wearing a mask.

In a call with the RCMP, Const. Law said Coquitlam Mounties — like law enforcement agencies across the province — have stepped up their enforcement of COVID-19 orders following direction from the province. 

ENHANCED ENFORCEMENT

As of Jan. 1, B.C. law enforcement had issued 77 tickets to individuals who were in breach of the Quarantine Act, adding up to $84,266.25 in fines, according to the Ministry of Public Safety and the Solicitor General.

While breaches of the Quarantine Act stem from federal legislation, police departments across the province have also been busy enforcing provincial COVID-19 measures — especially since Dec. 16, when the province implemented enhanced enforcement measures to “mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.” 

That has meant “strengthening COVID-19 fine-collection measures and asking provincial enforcement officers to actively support police and increase enforcement by issuing violation tickets as appropriate during their normal course of duties or when in public places,” wrote a spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Safety and the Solicitor General last week. 

PROVINCE ADJUSTS ENFORCEMENT 

On Thursday, Jan. 7, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry extended province-wide public health orders banning public gatherings until Feb. 5 at midnight.

The next day, the B.C. government said it is “fine-tuning compliance and enforcement” when it comes to masks, gatherings and events and the sale of food and liquor at licensed premises. 

“The intent of the orders remains unchanged and will continue to allow violation tickets to be issued to non-compliant persons, owners and operators, and hosts to ensure public safety and alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated the ministry spokesperson.

Changes include an amended face coverings order to exempt people who need to remove their mask to communicate with the hearing impaired. 

COVID-19 FINES UP

In addition to fining individuals for breaches of the federal Quarantine Act, law enforcement officers can issue violation tickets for breach of provincial health orders. 

Those include $230 tickets to people contravening the province’s face covering order as well as patrons and attendees who don’t comply with public health orders or who exhibit “abusive or belligerent behaviour and/or refuse to comply with the direction of enforcement officers.”

Fines can rise to $2,300 for hosts or organizers who don’t comply with COVID-19 public health orders. Violators have 30 days to dispute a ticket.

In the most extreme cases or for repeat offenders, police can also recommend charges, and should they be convicted, “judicial penalties of up to $10,000 and/or one year in prison may be imposed,” according to the B.C. government.

Violation tickets can be issued by police officers, a community safety unit, liquor and cannabis inspectors, gaming investigators and conservation officers under the Emergency Program Act. 

Between Aug. 21, 2020, and Jan. 1, 2021, $388,700 in fines were handed out across B.C., including:

  • 103 $2,300 tickets for breaching orders around gatherings and social events'
  • 21 $2,300 tickets for flouting the Public Health Office’s Food and Liquor Serving Premises order;
  • and 450 $230 tickets to individuals who refused to comply with direction from law enforcement.
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