Thursday, July 23, 2020

COVID concerns still on the minds of Prince Rupert City Council

A Prince Rupert resident raised his concerns over Non-essential travel
and COVID enforcement measures in the community

With the province in the midst of a bit of a spike in reported cases of COVID-19, the theme of local awareness came back up for some discussion Monday night at Prince Rupert City Council.

The theme was introduced by a resident of the city, Bill White who spoke during the Committee of the Whole portion of the night, relaying some of his concerns over non-essential travel and social distancing in the community, particularly in light of the growing number of visitors that have been coming to town in recent weeks as the province moved into it's Restart BC phase.

On the theme of out of town visitors, he noted that as a member of the Haida Nation he was quite concerned by the volume of visitors to the region, referencing the past and the smallpox epidemic as part of his narrative for the council members.

Expanding on his concerns, he made note of the impact that he fears COVID could have if it was to be reported in the Prince Rupert area and how it could affect our health care system and those at risk in the region.

"There are too many tourists in town, like I said I'm Haida, my clan is protesting on Haida Gwaii right now against the fishing lodges, because they're not paying any attention to any of the COVID-19 rules and regulations and I don't know why the RCMP aren't' doing the job of enforcing COVID-19 rules, I think that needs to be done ... 

All these people that are coming into town here, you go down to Rushbrook, George Hills Way all full with trucks and trailers, look at the licence plates, they're not local and this is just a small portion of what we see.

With this virus going around and if it starts coming here, we have no capacity to deal with it, we have nothing and the majority of the people around here are elders and we are going to be hit " -- City Resident Bill White expressing concerns over COVID and how it many impact the community.

Councillor Barry Cunningham picked up on the COVID theme on Monday night

Councillor Barry Cunningham would pick up the torch on the discussion later on in the evening, using some of his time during the Reports for Council period of the session to relay some of his own concerns about a number of issues related to COVID.

Mr. Cunningham spoke to the concerns from the Committee of the Whole commentary from Mr. White over COVID and noted of the growing number of out of town vehicles and visitors to the community.

The councillor also observed on some of the frustration that council feels on the issue, adding that there isn't much that the city can do about it, that after the Province suspended the City's State of Emergency from March.

Province of British Columbia suspends all Local States of Emergency; introduces range of new measures under Provincial State of Emergency

Prince Rupert Mayor takes issue with Provincial order to suspend Local State of Emergency

The conversation on the night seemed to highlight that even some four months now into the COVID pandemic that there is still some confusion as to how much enforcement that the City's bylaw office is involved with when it comes to any COVID related issues.

That as Mr. Cunningham asked who was responsible for enforcing COVID measures in the community at restaurants and other commercial locations.

"When Mr. White was here earlier discussing COVID-19 and the fears and everything in the community, who enforces the restaurants and places like that? Because I'm getting comments about different establishments and no social distancing, no masks, things like this. And as he said you go down to Rushbrook and other places and you're seeing a lot of out of town vehicles.

We can't do much about that, simply because the Province took away our State of Emergency when we put it in place, we were concerned about it months ago, I know everyone in t his room is still concerned about it, can our bylaw officers or is it the health inspector or whoever look into this?" -- Councillor Barry Cunningham on concerns over COVID and measures available in the community

Mr. Cunningham also expressed concerns that the public was to complacent on the issue and not taking the threat of COVID seriously, adding that as the city's hands are tied we've been lucky so far, but that there is a risk that it could run through the town should it be brought into the community.

The Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller advised that so far the city's bylaw officer has not been involved in any enforcement requirements through the Public Health office in the city, Ms. Miller did however note that public health is very responsive to any questions that are provided to them.

"Our office has been in contact with the Public Health Office, they are very responsive with respect to any concerns that people may have with respect to the public health orders and ministerial orders. At this time our bylaw officers are not in a position to assist and have not been required to assist by the public health office. But they are responsive, if anyone has any concerns they are more than welcome to call the office and leave their information." -- Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller

Councillor Adey also spoke to the COVID issues, observing that it is a little difficult to understand the jurisdictional areas where actions can be taken and how the regulations can be interpreted, noting that what the City can do is proactively and frequently reinforce the messages around people's behaviour.

The Councillor added that unfortunately some of that is still going to be left up to people's discretion, which limits the city in some ways.

You can review the full overview of the concerns on COVID in the city from the City's Video Archive, the concerns of Mr. White are relayed at the 12 minute mark, while Councillor's Cunningham and Adey's contribution begins at the 56 minute mark.

For more notes related to Monday's City Council Session, see our Council Timeline feature here.

While there hasn't been much from the City on the theme of COVID since the government suspended the local Emergency orders, you can review some of the background to that period of time here.

Further notes COVID related and otherwise can be found from Council Discussion page here.

1 comment:

  1. It's misleading to say that because of the suspension of the local state of emergency the city cannot do anything and are not in a position to assist. Under the Ministerial order bylaw officers cannot arrest or fine, but they are authorized to monitor, inform, warn, and report suspected contraventions to health officers. The council has chosen not have bylaw officers take an active role. Instead they've treated this as a turf issue.