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City has limited power to deal with non-essential visitors

Only one bylaw officer, who can not enforce
There is little power the City holds to restrict out of town visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lee Brain, mayor (front) said at the Prince Rupert City Council meeting on April 27. In this photo Brain is joined in his second term by Barry Cunningham, Reid Skelton-Morven, Wade Neish, Blair Mirau, Gurvinder Randhawa and Nick Adey on Nov. 5, (Matthew Allen / The Northern View)

It was made clear, on April 27, to Prince Rupert City Council and local residents that there was little power the City holds to enforce non-essential travel to the area.

Mayor, Lee Brain, addressed Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa’s concern about limiting out-of-province travellers to the area while the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are in place.

“Many people are still coming from out-of-province and out-of-country. They are still moving around town and numbers are going up. What can the city do about that?,” Randhawa, put to the Mayor during the meeting, which was closed to the public, but broadcast live.

“When it comes to non essential travel … we are not able to stop people from coming here,” Brain said.

The City currently has only one bylaw officer but is not authorized to enforce, however, can report any issue to the health officer. Ultimately, the bylaw officer does not have an mechanism to perform enforcement. There are difficulties with ascertaining who is visiting in the P.R. region for non-essential reasons and who is here for essential reasons because issues happen so quickly, Brain said.

READ MORE: Prince Rupert citizens concerned by influx of out of province visitors

He added that everyone in the region is united that non-essential travel should have restrictions.

“We feel there should be stronger mechanisms to limit non-essential travel, but at this time there is not much the city can do, because that effort is being managed through provincial health orders.”

“As we have seen on Haida Gwaii and the Nuxalk Nation (Bella Coola) down in the central coast, these folks are setting up their own checkpoints, and doing their own measures, due to the fact that there isn’t really any strict non-essential travel restrictions in place,” Brain said.

The City wanted to put restrictions in place a month-and-a-half ago ‘to at least get us through’, Brain said. With the recent provincial decision that hunting and fishing are essential services, people are going to continue coming to Prince Rupert to do those things.

“At this juncture there is not much power the city has to limit or stop these [activities] from happening.”

“We are hoping everyone is just going to follow the rules anyway by keeping social distance, washing your hands, making sure you are keeping six feet away, not touching your face, those type of things and just making sure that everyone follows the rules as best as they can.”

“…So at this point in time that is as far as we can take it,” Brain said.

READ MORE: ‘Enough is enough’: Haida Gwaii rallies to send visiting ferry traffic back to terminal

K-J Millar | Journalist
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