Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the protocols on enforcement of the new Quarantine Act are still being worked. (File photo)

Unclear if Cowichan couple refusing to self-isolate will face penalty

No fines or charges have been laid to date, including Cowichan couple who won’t self isolate

It’s currently not known if the couple in the Cowichan Valley who have not been self isolating since recently returning to Canada from an overseas trip will face any legal repercussions.

Apparently, the issue of who is responsible for enforcing the new federal Quarantine Act that now makes it mandatory for people to isolate themselves for 14 days is still being worked out.

In a press conference on April 3, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said no one in B.C. has been fined or jailed for not self isolating after returning to Canada since the Act became law on March 25.

She said the RCMP will be in charge of enforcement of the Act, but the protocols on enforcement are still being worked.

However, according to a recent news release from the province’s COVID-19 Joint Information Centre, municipal bylaw officers are supposed to be supporting the enforcement of orders from the provincial health officer under the provincial Public Health Act.

RELATED STORY: COWICHAN COUPLE WON’T SELF ISOLATE AFTER RETURNING FROM OVERSEAS

In the same press conference, B.C.’s Health Minister Adrian Dix said authorities have to have “vastly greater capacity” to enforce the Act, but wasn’t specific as to who is in charge of enforcing it.

“We need stronger action,” he simply said.

“The sacrifice of every citizen is needed when they come from other countries, and self-isolation must happen.”

After receiving complaints about the Cowichan couple who were not self isolating, bylaw officers from the Municipality of North Cowichan went to the couple’s home to drop off educational materials for them.

Under the new rules, it’s the job of North Cowichan, and all municipalities in B.C., to provide information to people returning to the country about the new self-isolation rules, but they cannot actually ticket anyone.

After the bylaw officers assessed that the couple likely didn’t intend to self isolate, they sent the information to the public health office in Nanaimo.

RELATED STORY: REGIONAL DISTRICT OF NANAIMO WANTS TO SELF-ISOLATE DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC

North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring addressed the issue of self isolating on his Facebook page.

He said that in an earlier press conference this week, Dr. Henry said that “there may be different messages that people have received at the airport…(But) our approach has been…to ensure that people know what is expected of them, and that’s the first thing”.

“Most of the cases that we have been involved in that have been investigated (either from Public Health or Bylaw Officers), it’s people not understanding and not being very clear about what is expected of them,” Siebring quoted Henry as saying.

“And for the most part when we do (explain the new rules), people are compliant. And that’s the approach that we recommend taking. The federal Quarantine Order can be accompanied by fines and other things, but that would be through RCMP and the Quarantine Service.”

According to the Quarantine Act, the maximum penalties for non-compliance include a fine of up to $750,000 and/or imprisonment for six months.

The Quarantine Act also stipulates that a person who causes a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person while wilfully or recklessly contravening the Act or the regulations could be liable for a fine of up to $1 million, or to imprisonment of up to three years, or to both.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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