The union representing RCMP officers in British Columbia says its members risk being overwhelmed by calls to enforce new provincial orders requiring business owners to see proof of vaccination before serving customers who want to visit restaurants, bars, gyms and other establishments.
The new rules, announced last week, will take effect Sept. 13. A Facebook page has been created with the names of 1,800 businesses that the page’s creator says are willing to defy the provincial order.
RCMP Sergeant Rob Farrer, a B.C.-based spokesperson for the National Police Federation, said the proof of vaccination requirement is an order with much wider reach than previous pandemic public-health directives.
“There is a certain segment of the population that is not overly interested in the vaccines and may be looking for ways to make a point,” Sgt. Farrer said. “It certainly opens the door for confrontation.”
Last week, Premier John Horgan said businesses worried about staff who may encounter belligerent patrons refusing to show the requisite proof of immunization could call law enforcement to handle the situation.
Sgt. Farrer said front-line Mounties are concerned the Premier’s message may be misconstrued by too many businesses as the first step in dealing with a patron who will not comply.
He said this summer 650 Mounties in the province – roughly 10 per cent of all RCMP in B.C. – have been deployed in response to wildfires, pulling them away from their day-to-day roles.
The union pointed out others have been involved in the continuing enforcement of a court injunction against old-growth logging protests on southern Vancouver Island.
The union said they cannot continue to effectively respond to rising calls without additional officers, resources and funding.
On Monday, provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix was asked at an unrelated press conference about what will happen to scofflaws that plan to bypass the coming vaccine card system.
He did not explain how these operators will be treated, but said the system will be enforced just as other public-health orders such as limits on the size of house parties have been enforced in the past.
“Where an actual disturbance takes place, police will be called and that will be an expectation and, in other cases, it’s bylaw officers – so this will happen just as all those rules that are in place in society get enforced,” Mr. Dix said. “We’re doing the vaccine card to allow businesses to stay open.”
But Sean Cahill, a pipefitter in the Shuswap area of B.C.’s southern Interior, said he created a Facebook page opposing the requirement and said it took only a day to attract 100 members. The page now has more than 100,000.
“I’m just trying to facilitate a need. ... I’d like to find a way to connect people and businesses together that share common values,” Mr. Cahill said in a phone interview Monday.
“You can’t go to a small mom-and-pop shop to go get a burger and a beer [unvaccinated], but you can go to Walmart and you can stand in line with another 100 people?
“That doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Mr. Cahill declined to respond to criticism that members of his group are putting vulnerable people at risk if they choose to socialize in public establishments without being vaccinated.
“It essentially stems back to if people want to get vaccinated they do so for their own personal safety and people who choose that they don’t want to should be granted the right,” he said.
The province has yet to release more details on the system aimed at rewarding those who have received the vaccine with some of life’s daily pleasures while spurring more of the 15 per cent of the population 12 and over that haven’t had a single dose of vaccine to join them. By Oct. 24, proof of two doses will be required for people to access a range of indoor social and recreational events.
Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry has previously estimated that roughly 5 per cent of those on Canada’s West Coast are against getting the vaccine.
With a report from The Canadian Press
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