Washington plates in Kelowna: UBC Okanagan urges understanding for students - InfoNews

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Washington plates in Kelowna: UBC Okanagan urges understanding for students

A truck was spotted in a Kelowna parking lot with this disclaimer July 28.
August 02, 2020 - 7:00 AM

Foreign students attending UBCO are being urged to contact the university for support if they feel harassed because of their country or province of origin.

In recent days, a UBC Okanagan student felt compelled to slap a disclaimer to the back of his truck to explain his Washington State licence plate with the intention of avoiding escalating conflicts.

The magnet reads “I am a UBC Okanagan student, I have lived here for three years with my truck, thank you for understanding.”

Based out of California, the Kelowna-residing university student, who requested anonymity for his safety, said he has a Washington licence plate because that’s where his grandparents live and he was able to find a deal on a truck there. He never switched over his plate to B.C. because, under normal circumstances, he visits family multiple times a year. It isn't usually a problem, but COVID-19 changed that.

“I was getting notes on my car and there was an incident where someone followed me,” he said.

While UBC Okanagan is primarily offering courses online this summer and in the fall, there are nevertheless many legitimate reasons why a member of the UBC community could have out-of-province licence plates, including coming to study, for employment or for other academic pursuits.

"We are not aware of any specific incidents involving students, staff or faculty but we would urge caution in jumping to conclusions about the personal circumstances surrounding out-of-province licence plates," a UBC Okanagan representative said in an emailed statement.

"In this particular case, we have no way of knowing whether this vehicle belongs to a student and for reasons of protecting privacy, we do not comment on the personal information of our students, staff or faculty. Any student who feels they are being harassed because of their country or province of origin can reach out to the university for support." 

Since this story was originally published there have been concerns about how and why the truck is insured the way it is.

On ICBC’s website, it states that students can apply for an exception as long as their vehicle is properly insured in their home jurisdiction and that they are enrolled full time at a recognized B.C. post-secondary institution. Once exempt, students are provided with a decal that they stick to the windshield of their vehicle and must carry a permit. Tourists may drive with their existing plates for up to six months, according to ICBC’s website.

Dr. Bonnie Henry offered a familiarly kind, calm and safer approach when asked about the reaction to foreign licence plates in B.C., July 28.

“There are many reasons why people have different license plates here in B.C.,” she said.

She also said she’s aware of many people who came home to look after elderly family members.

“We need to respect that,” she said. “We also need to respect that many people have been here for a long time. They may have done their isolation, and they are members of our community and we need to treat everybody with kindness and with respect. We do not know everybody's story.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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