The town of Osoyoos has written a letter to the B.C. government outlining its concerns with proposed changes to the province's emergency preparedness laws.

The suggested revisions would give police the authority to arrest anyone refusing to comply with an evacuation order. They would also allow the provincial government to require municipalities to change elements of their emergency plans.

Osoyoos mayor Sue McKortoff said her council was concerned with residents' rights to protect their property and livestock.

"There were several people in the fires over in Rock Creek [last summer] who felt that they would have preferred to stay on their own property for various reasons," McKortoff told Daybreak South host Chris Walker.

"To be forced to leave their livestock, their animals, their homes — we felt that was a choice that they should make and not necessarily the police."

Naomi Yamamoto, the minister of state for emergency preparedness, said police would only enforce evacuation of individuals if lives were put at risk.

"We would only apply this in dire circumstances where inaction is likely to result in a greater public safety threat," Yamamoto said.

Problems with provincial oversight

The Osoyoos council's other concern was with the province's proposed ability to impose changes on municipal emergency plans. The province can currently only recommend changes but has no authority to enforce them.

McKortoff's main concern was the timeline for this new process, since changes could potentially have significant budgetary and staffing implications for municipalities.

Yamamoto said the province doesn't want to start micromanaging municipal emergency plans. Instead, the change is intended to allow them to fill gaps they see in existing plans.

"All British Columbians expect that their governments, whether it's the local [or] provincial level, will take care of them," Yamamoto said. "We just want the authority [to ensure] that those municipalities that haven't got a complete plan actually do that."

The province will continue seeking feedback from municipalities on its proposed changes until April 22.


To hear the full audio, listen to the audio labelled: Osoyoos town council takes issue with province's proposed emergency plan changes