Premier John Horgan has announced a sweeping new order restricting non-essential travel for people living in British Columbia.
It includes plans for cancelling ferries, travel bookings and camping reservations, as well as random road “audits” and new border signage.
The premier says that there “will be consequences” for people caught travelling outside of their health district for purposes not deemed essential, although he did not provide details about what those would be.
Additional details about the order are expected to be released later this week by Dr Bonnie Henry and BC’s Public Safety Minister, but here’s all the information we know right now:
The new order
A new order will be enacted to stop people from making non-essential trips outside of their health district.
It will take effect on Friday, April 23.
The order will be issued under the Emergency Program Act “to restrict people’s ability to leave their health authority.”
Enforcement and roadside “audits”
Horgan says the order will be enforced through “random audits” on BC roads and highways, comparing them to roadside counter-attack programs targeting impaired drivers.
The audits will be applicable to all travellers. Horgan insists police will not be given any additional power and says police will not be set up on the borders of health boundaries stopping people.
The premier says the province is going to be working with BIPOC communities to ensure they are not unfairly targeted. However, he has not specified which groups or communities the province would be consulting with during the process of enacting the order.
Similar checks enacted in Ontario as part of that province’s sweeping restrictions have been challenged by civil liberties experts, who call increased powers for police “concerning.”
It is still unclear what proof, if any, BC travellers will need to provide to authorities to prove the nature of their trip.
What is considered essential?
Dr. Bonnie Henry says she has a list of what is deemed as essential travel outside of a person’s health authority, and it will be released along with additional details later in the week with Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth.
Henry says health officials are working closely with public safety on this point.
The premier says that BC is going to eliminate travel bookings from outside the health region and says people should not try to book holidays or accommodations outside of their immediate area until after the end of the May long weekend.
Horgan says the province is working on a voluntary basis with the travel sector to cancel bookings that have been made by people travelling across health authorities.
He stressed people should not attempt to book something outside of their area, because “the tourism operator will not book you passage.”
Camping is not considered a reason for essential travel, and the recreational trips will need to be cancelled if they are outside of someone’s health authority.
The minister in charge of BC Parks, George Heyman, is working with the agency to ensure that anyone who has booked a camping reservation outside of their health authority will be refunded for their booking.
Ferry travel within BC
Horgan says in an effort to limit trips between Vancouver Island and the Mainland and Coastal communities dependent on ferry travel, BC Ferries will not be adding additional sailings.
Reservations that include a camper or trailer will be cancelled, he says.
Additionally, BC Ferries will be contacting travellers to tell them not to travel unless it is essential.
The BC-Alberta border
The BC government is going to be erecting signs along the provincial border with Alberta, warning travellers not to come into BC unless it is for essential purposes.
“Unless they’re coming for essential business, they should not be here,” said Horgan.
“They should be back in their home communities.”
When will the order expire?
The order will remain in place until the May long weekend, but whether or not it is removed depends on if there is a decrease of COVID-19 transmissions and hospitalizations in the province, says Dr. Henry.
By the end of that holiday weekend, 60% of the eligible adult population in BC should have had their first vaccine dose, she added.