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City of Vancouver says no truth to rumour people are getting fined for not social distancing

“Having police officers trolling parks and ticketing people is at this point — given all of their other work — not a top priority."
The scene at English Bay March 26. Photo Dan Toulgoet

An online rumour that Vancouver residents have been fined for flouting social distancing directives is false, according to both the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Police Department.

A commenter on a Facebook support group, formed because of coronavirus, said they'd heard a couple of people were handed $1,000 fines recently. The post earned hundreds of comments.

But it's not the case, according to Vancouver city manager Sadhu Johnston and the Vancouver Police Department. 

Johnston addressed the subject at a March 26 press conference.

“There’s a rumour going around that people were riding in a car and they weren’t social distancing. I’ve not heard about that [happening],” he said.

“We’ve not issued any tickets for people not social distancing. We have issued orders to businesses that have had too many customers in[side] at one time, for instance. As far as I know, that’s a rumour.”

The VPD issued a similar message on social media. 

“Safety is our top priority. We must continue to practice social distancing & keep 6ft apart. Please be advised,#VPD is not issuing tickets or taking calls related to social distancing. For concerns about social distancing, please contact the @CityofVancouver by dialing 3-1-1,” the department posted on Twitter.

As of Monday, March 23, the city has had the authority to levy fines of $1,000 to $50,000 to operators of businesses and individuals who continue to ignore social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Read more HERE)

At the time, Johnston told city council his office had no immediate plans to issue a formal order that would allow police officers to ticket individuals still participating in public activities such as a soccer game.

Officials have asked residents to stay home whenever possible, except to get necessities, and to maintain a two-metre distance from others while outside to help stop the spread of the virus.

“Having police officers trolling parks and ticketing people is at this point — given all of their other work — not a top priority,” Johnston said Monday. “They don’t have the bandwidth to do that.”

Meanwhile, the City of Vancouver has issued 17 orders to restaurants to bring them into compliance for either offering in-service dining or having more than 10 people queueing up on their property. But no fines have been issued.

“The business licence would be suspended as a first step, and then a fine would be issued if they were still non-compliant,” the city explained in an email. “Right now, the City of Vancouver is continuing to enforce bylaws, but are prioritizing life safety violations.”

Given the current health crisis and the declaration of a state of local emergency, the City is in the process of reviewing its parking-enforcement policy. 

“Parking enforcement is an essential part of the city’s ability to ensure safety and adherence to key bylaws, therefore we will always need to operate these services to a certain extent. Parking enforcement provides services beyond parking meter payment, including keeping streets passable and safe, maintaining access to disabled and commercial zones, and responding to citizen requests regarding blocked driveways and intersection obstructions,” the city said.

“We will have more information to share in the coming days but at this time, people should continue to adhere to parking regulations and pay for parking where required.”

— with files from Mike Howell

Read more from the Vancouver Courier