British Columbia Video

Fines of up to $2,000 possible for hosts of large events violating public health orders in B.C.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth made the announcement Friday morning

Posted: August 21, 2020
Last Updated: August 21, 2020

A special constable directs a motorist at a COVID-19 testing facility in Vancouver. Alongside police officers, special constables will now be able to immediately fine people who violate public health orders. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Police and other law enforcement officers now have the authority to issue fines of up to $2,000 to people who host large events that violate public health orders in British Columbia during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth.

The province says stricter enforcement is necessary because a small number of British Columbians have been disregarding public health measures and continue to participate in indoor and outdoor events that increase the risk of transmission of the disease.

"We can't let the bad decisions made by a few erode the progress that we have made together," Farnworth said during a news conference Friday morning. 

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According to the announcement, organizers can be fined for hosting an event with more than 50 guests, for not keeping a contact list or for hosting more than five people in a vacation accommodation.

"Just because your party has less than 50 people, it doesn't make it legal," said the minister.

Watch | Public Safety Minister Mark Farnworth outlines the scope of new enforcement measures and fines:

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Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth has strengthened fines for the "small minority" of British Columbians who are flouting public health measures.  1:36

Fines can also be issued if venues don't provide appropriate hand sanitation and washroom facilities or sufficient space for physical distancing.

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The $2,000 fines will apply to owners, organizers, venues and promoters. The province also says $200 fines will be levied against individuals refusing to follow business safety plans or engaging in abusive or bullying behaviour toward employees trying to implement them.

Number of active cases surging in B.C.

The announcement comes as the number of active cases of COVID-19 rises in British Columbia. 

The province reported 80 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total number of active cases to 780, including 11 people in hospital. The number of people who have died in B.C. after contracting the illness reached 200 this week.

Deputy Provincial Health Officer Dr. Reka Gustafson has said the majority of the latest cases are still being detected in younger adults, but there have been small increases in infections among older people, too.

She said public health workers are monitoring 2,574 people who may have been exposed to COVID-19, but that number could increase if infected individuals spent time in gatherings.

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The new enforcement measures are being enacted under the provincial state of emergency, using the extraordinary powers of the Emergency Program Act.

In addition to police, the province says staff from other ministries will be able to issue tickets, including liquor, cannabis and gaming inspectors, community safety unit inspectors, conservation officers and WorkSafeBC officers.

Farnworth said the focus of these enforcement officers, known as special constables, will be on private, indoor events.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has stated throughout the pandemic that while not all outdoor gatherings are safe, the risk of COVID-19 transmission is much lower outside.

With files from The Canadian Press