Dr. Brendan Hanley’s directions to stop the spread of COVID-19 are now enforceable by law, and people failing to comply are subject to fines and imprisonment.
“The orders issued today represent another tool to deal with and manage this rapidly evolving situation,” Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee said Thursday afternoon.
The government made an emergency declaration under the Civil Emergency Measures Act earlier this week.
Under it, an enforcement order and health protection order were signed Thursday by John Streicker, the minister of Community Services.
“Our medical system could quickly become overwhelmed if community spread of COVID occurred here,” Streicker said. “We’re taking strong steps to keep our community safe.”
The enforcement order writes the following measures into law, with offences subject to a $500 fine:
• individuals returning to the territory must immediately self-isolate for 14 days, with some exceptions for critical service providers;
• individuals working in the mining industry must self-isolate in place other than mine or camp;
• individuals arriving in the Yukon must provide a declaration of their name, address, phone number and destination, and behave in a way that is consistent with that declaration;
• individuals must follow advice of the chief medical officer of health;
• individuals must not gather socially in groups of more than 10 persons;
• individuals must not eat nor drink in restaurants that have opened for take-out only;
• bars must close;
• no dentistry except in emergency; and
• personal service establishments must close.
“These are not suggestions, these are not guidelines. These are the law,” McPhee said.
“We ask Yukoners to be vigilant with their own behaviour and reminding their friends and family to abide by these new laws.”
McPhee said that there will soon be the opportunity for individuals to report infractions to the authorities.
The enforcement order stands until June 25, unless the Civil Emergency Measures Act is extended beyond the prescribed 90 days. Tickets and
charges of up to $500 can be issued, with potential jail time for non-compliance.
Among these offences are new rules for self-declaration upon entering the territory.
The Yukon government is establishing checkpoints at the borders and airports. Travellers who enter the territory will be required to submit a
declaration of name, address and phone number.
Enforcement officers will use this information to check in with travellers to ensure that 14 days of self-isolation are being observed.
Non-residents travelling through the Yukon have 24 hours to pass through, assuming they do not have symptoms of COVID-19.
Travellers must follow directions given by an enforcement officer regarding routes and establishments they may enter.
“We need to be respectful that some people will be going home to Alaska or the Northwest Territories,” Streicker said. “Just as we hope B.C. will be respectful of Yukoners travelling home.”
Enforcement officials at the border will allow passage for travellers returning home or conducting other essential travel.
“If it’s unwanted travel, sorry, you’re not welcome,” Streicker said.
There are some exceptions to the self-isolation law for critical workers, who provide the services required to preserve life, health and basic societal functioning –– health care, food, water, medicine, emergency services, electricity, transportation and government.
A full list of critical workers is available on yukon.ca. Critical service workers are subject to a list of safety guidelines if they are unable to self-isolate in their position, including self-monitoring, daily temperature-taking and isolation when not at work.
Critical service workers can return to work without 14 days of self-isolation only if an alternate worker is not available to provide the service.
Citizens of Atlin, Lower Post, Fraser, Jade City, Fireside or Pleasant Camp are also exempt from 14 days of self-isolation, provided they have not travelled outside of the Yukon or their community in the previous 14 days.
Streicker said these community members will be treated as Yukoners when crossing the border, because they rely on Whitehorse for food and
Enforcement officers will be appointed to implement the new laws from the Yukon’s pool of conservation officers, sheriffs, liquor inspectors and First Nation land officers.
RCMP Chief Supt. Scott Sheppard told the Star today that officers won’t be enlisted as emergency act enforcement officers for the time being.
“I’ve been in contact with Dr. Hanley and he knows very well that the RCMP stands ready to assist in any way we can,” Sheppard said.
“I don’t think the expectation, at this point, is for the RCMP to take eyes off issues of a criminal nature.”
Sheppard said that just because these rules are now law, doesn’t mean the Yukon is becoming a police state.
“I know when people hear these certain powers have been drawn down upon by government, there’s this feeling that police will be patrolling the streets and arresting people,” Sheppard said.
“That’s really not the case, and that’s not really helpful…. I don’t know if you’re going to see a lot of enforcement activity to begin with.”
While the RCMP carry out traditional roles and responsibilities, enforcement officers will be appointed with duties that boil down to communication and education. Sheppard noted that the role of enforcement officers will primarily be educating Yukoners on rules for self-isolation and physical distancing.
Enforcement officers will also ensure that Yukoners don’t become complacent, though Sheppard said Yukoners seem to be following the rules thus far.
More intense enforcement may become necessary in the future, as Sheppard noted things are changing quickly.
“I think the government is being very prudent in terms of preparing for any possible future needs we might have,” Sheppard said.
“There is a number of tools in the toolbox, and this is going to be another tool if we need it.
“Right now, what we need are a pair of tweezers or a screwdriver. The enforcement is the hammer, and we are nowhere near that phase right now, but it’s important we’re in place ... to inform the public that there will be consequences.”
Sheppard said the Yukon’s RCMP are fully staffed and will not require additional federal resources. Supplementary resources have been deployed in the Yukon’s communities.
After today’s Star deadline for the Nation section, Ontario health officials reported the virus could claim between 3,000 and 15,000 lives there over the next 18 months to two years. Without the preventive measures already taken, the death toll could have approached 100,000, they believe.
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