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‘We need support’ on COVID-compliance: Fernie to RCMP

Mayor Qualizza has requested assistance for bylaw officers in enforcing COVID-compliance for businesses

Mayor Ange Qualizza has publicly requested more support from the RCMP for city bylaw officers in efforts to enforce COVID compliance.

In a Nov. 15 committee of the whole meeting during a report from the local detachment on priority planning, Qualizza said that city officials needed help.

“The thing I have said to you several times - respectfully - is we need support, our bylaw officers need support with COVID enforcement with businesses that aren’t in compliance,” she said.

Qualizza added that “only a few” businesses in Fernie were out of compliance with COVID public health orders and expectations from the provincial government, and did not elaborate on any numbers or examples.

She said that given the orders are likely to continue well into 2022, “we really need community policing to come back and be a part of the solution.”

In the most recent Bylaw staff report covering the July-September quarter delivered to the Oct. 18 committee of the whole meeting, 16 COVID-related incidents were reported with no violations listed leading to zero notices issued, and zero fines issued by city bylaw officers. According to the city, each complaint was referred to Interior Health.

Speaking later, the city’s chief administrative officer, Michael Boronowski, explained that the request for assistance was due to bylaw officers not having the authorization to actually enforce orders, despite being responsible for responding to complaints and educating businesses and individuals.

“We also simply don’t have the people to schedule shifts around the clock to respond to complaints on top of our regular and seasonal bylaw enforcement tasks and are focused on our role in supporting the other agencies’ response,” said Boronowski.

Actual enforcement of public health orders falls to police and other provincially-empowered constables (such as liquor, cannabis and gaming inspectors/investigators, community safety unit officers and conservation officers).

Boronowski said that the city does have a tool available to enforce orders - being the revocation of business licenses, though he said this was a last resort.

“To date we have not had to do so as Interior Health has reported to us they have reached compliance through their enforcement efforts.”

READ MORE: RCMP update: Detachment reports on cases in Sparwood for April-September 2021
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