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UPDATE: All you need is driver with good excuse to travel between B.C. Interior and Lower Mainland

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth is seen in this undated file photo.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Province of B.C.
April 30, 2021 - 11:13 AM

Road checks set up to stop non-essential travel between the Interior Health region and the Lower Mainland will only question the reason the driver is making the trip.

Passengers will not be questioned Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said during a news briefing today, April 30, but he did not give a clear explanation as to why not.

“The order was constructed on the basis of legal advice, because it is taking place under the Emergency Program Act, under Section 10, that means we are giving authority to the police that exist in other areas but not under this legislation,” Farnworth said. “So, it is ensuring, one, that it is constitutional and doesn’t start to stray into what is deemed to potentially be an investigation, for example. The safest, most appropriate way to deal with this is that the driver is the one that is being questioned and not the passengers.”

Drivers will have to produce their licences and will be asked why they are travelling but they won’t have to provide documentation to support those stated reasons. Passengers will not be asked to provide any identification or other information.

He added to the already lengthy list of what is deemed essential travel to include people travelling to avoid the risk of abuse or violence and for social visits to long-term care homes instead of just essential visitors that were listed last week.

The road checks will be set up by the E Division of the RCMP, most likely near Hope where three highways from the Interior converge. He estimated that 90 to 95 per cent of people travelling from the Lower Mainland into the Interior will use Highway 1 then either the Fraser Canyon, Coquihalla or Hope-Princeton highways.

Farnworth did not say how often they will be set up but did say motorists will be notified a few kilometres before the road checks. Signs will warn that non-essential travel is prohibited and let drivers know there is a road check ahead. That way, they may choose to turn around if they are not travelling for essential reasons.

READ MORE: New B.C. travel restrictions likely to hit Okanagan harder than Kamloops

Police will have the discretion to determine if the driver is travelling for essential or non-essential travel and order the driver to turn around if the travel is deemed non-essential.

“Failure to comply with the requirements of the road check or direction given by a police officer may result in a $230 fine,” he said. “Violating the travel order is a $575 fine.”

He did not clarify what would warrant a $230 fine versus the $575 fine.

Despite it taking a week to get these details on enforcement out, Farnworth said people are already following the orders.

Ferry traffic to Vancouver Island, for example, has dropped by 30 per cent and the number of foot passengers is down 40 per cent. He also said hotels have done a great job of discouraging non-essential traffic and, while they can’t force people not to book, many visitors have cancelled their reservations and rebooked for after the travel restrictions end at 12:01 a.m. on May 25.

Farnworth also stressed that, while non-essential travel is banned between the combined health regions (Interior/North, Fraser Health/Vancouver Coastal and Vancouver Island), people should not be traveling for non-essential reasons within those regions either.

For more information on the travel restrictions, including a list of reasons for essential travel, go here.

RCMP say in a media release issued after Farnworth's news conference says road checks will be held on Highways 1, 3, 5 and 99 near the boundaries between the health regions where it is safe to do so.

Not only will signs be posted well in advance, but notices will also be put on its website and social media channels.

“We recognize that these checks will impact traffic flow and could potentially lead to delays,” RCMP say in the release. “Leading up to the May long weekend we encourage everyone to revisit their plans and limit travel outside of their community. By working together, we will help to slow the spread of COVID-19 and return to normal seasonal travel more quickly.”

— This article was updated at 3:35 p.m. April 30, 2021 to add information from RCMP.

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