B.C. to issue $2K fines for party organizers amid COVID-19
VICTORIA -- British Columbia's public safety minister has ordered police and other provincial enforcement officers to start handing out $2,000 fines to people who contravene public health orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says the order is effective immediately and will target anyone who hosts or organizes a large gathering such as a house party or beach gathering where public health orders are not enforced.
"Over the past few weeks there is a small minority of selfish individuals across the province who are disregarding the public health measures," Farnworth said Friday.
"Enough is enough," he added. "These actions could cost people their lives, that’s why stricter enforcement is necessary."
The fines will also apply, Farnworth said, to anyone who does not keep a list of the contact information for everyone who attends a gathering, even if it is fewer than the allowed 50 people.
"Just because your party has less than 50 people does not make it legal," the public safety minister said.
Hosts and owners of vacation rental properties who allow more than five guests inside the property will also be subject to the $2,000 violation tickets.
"This pandemic is not ending soon but together we will get through it," Farnworth said. "Now more than ever this is a time to be selfless."
The province will also begin issuing smaller fines of $200 to event attendees or restaurant-goers who refuse to comply with health orders when asked to do so.
"Don't yell at the waiter who asks you not to push your tables together at a restaurant," Farnworth said.
The same fine will also apply to those who bully or abuse staff at businesses when asked to comply with health orders, including wearing masks and maintaining physical distance.
Farnworth said police won't be the only ones issuing the fines as the province has called on ministry staff, liquor and cannabis inspectors and conservation officers to assist in the public health enforcement.
"We will be watching," Farnworth warned, adding that the province will work with local governments to revoke the licences of any businesses where violations continue to occur.
Farnworth promised Tuesday to bring in new measures to address the behaviour of people whose actions “demonstrate their indifference to the health and safety of others” as new cases of COVID-19 in B.C. continue to rise.
At the same time, Premier John Horgan said people in B.C. have sacrificed to keep transmission of the illness low, and unsafe parties and gatherings are eroding that hard work.
"Those making selfish decisions are risking more than their reputations," Farnworth said Friday. "I'm disappointed that stricter enforcement has become necessary – British Columbians have enough to deal with right now."
Farnworth said many of B.C.'s recent cases of the virus are being traced to private, indoor parties.
The new enforcement order comes as the province's active caseload reached new highs this week, with officials Thursday announcing 80 new cases of COVID-19 and two deaths related to the virus.