Provincial government considers arresting emergency evacuation resisters


CENTRAL OKANAGAN - If police want to lock up people who refuse to evacuate during an emergency, that’s okay with Gail Givens, chair of the Central Okanagan Regional District.

“We know there’s situations where folks are refusing to leave an emergency and it puts the ermegency responders directly at risk,” Given says. "Speaking for myself, I would have no problem with allowing police the power to remove them from harm’s way."

The proposal floated by government on the Engage B.C. website seeks to extend powers of arrest to local police during emergency evacuations has sparked a small firestorm of negative comments amongst those who see the right to stay and fight as fundamental.

Changes to the Emergency Program act would let police arrest anyone who refuses to comply with an evacuation order under a declared state of emergency and hold them long enough to take them to a place of safety.

It would also give police right of entry and use of reasonable force to enforce an evacuation order and allow the province or a local authority to charge the person for costs incurred while enforcing the evacuation order.

Most public commenters on Engage B.C. pan the proposal but Given says you don’t have to look far to see behaviour around emergencies that puts other people’s lives at risk.

“We see over and over again where the public is interfering with emergency services, flying drones over fires, getting in the way of water bombers,” Given says. “Some people say individual rights take precedence but that’s the big question. Well, if I’m a homeowner and my property is under threat, I might think a little differently, if you’re getting in the way of the firefighters.”

Given says the need to give police extra emergency powers has not arisen at the regional district.

“My interest is making sure the responders have all the tools in the belt they need to protect the public,” she adds.

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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