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Chilliwack bylaw officers get new powers to enforce COVID-19 health orders

The enforcement will focus on education and warnings, not issuing fines or detaining people
Steve McCarthy, City of Chilliwack bylaw officer, is one of the city bylaw staff with new enforcement powers to support provincial health officer orders, like ensuring certain businesses are closed or breaking up mass gatherings of more than 50 people. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Progress file)

Chilliwack bylaw officers have been granted new powers to help enforce orders from the provincial health officer, such as ensuring non-essential businesses are closed, or breaking up mass gatherings of more than 50 people.

“Regardless of the level of government we work for, COVID-19 has placed us all in the same boat,” said Mayor Ken Popove. “We have to work together as a team across all levels of government to flatten the curve, and we need residents to obey the orders and heed the warnings of our bylaw staff.”

Bylaw officers have not gained the power to detain people however, or issue fines. They’ll be after voluntary compliance.

“This means that City of Chilliwack bylaw officers will be able to support enforcement of the provincial health officer’s orders prohibiting certain businesses from operating and gatherings of over 50 people with education and warnings,” according to a new release from city hall Friday.

On Saturday, March 21, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry added personal service establishments — including salons, spas, massage parlours and tattoo parlours — to the list of businesses ordered to close in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Henry ordered that all restaurants province-wide would have to close to dine-in guests and operate only through takeout or delivery services. She prohibited bars and nightclubs from operating, as well as issuing a ban on large gatherings of more than 50 people.

“Bylaw staff will determine the applicable health orders and attend the site to seek voluntary compliance.”

Bylaw officers who are out on patrol will be able to “educate and remind” residents of the need for social distancing, or physical distancing of more than two metres (six feet), but the requirement for social distancing is not enforceable as an “official order” at this time.

Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth issued a series of ministerial orders Thursday under the Emergency Program Act, giving municipal bylaw officers those powers of enforcement to deal with offences under the Public Health Act.

The goal is “to ensure a co-ordinated reponse to COVID-19 across all levels of government for the duration of the provincial emergency,” according to the ministry release.

To lodge a complaint about businesses not closing as directed by the health order, or to report mass grouping of 50-plus, contact the City of Chilliwack’s Bylaw Department directly at 604-793-2908, Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After hours leave a detailed message as bylaw staff working evenings and weekends will be checking voicemail.

For complaints regarding individuals not self-isolating when they should be, please contact the RCMP’s non-emergency line at 604-792-4611.

READ MORE: Some businesses could get hit with fines in Vancouver

READ MORE: Delta bylaw enforcing health orders

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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