The union representing RCMP officers says it’s concerned about the strain enforcing B.C.’s new COVID-19 vaccine passport will put on resources that are already stretched thin.
On Friday, Premier John Horgan said businesses who have “difficulty” with patrons refusing to show proof of enforcement can “call law enforcement.”
“We can’t just have the answer (be) always call the police,” said Rob Farrer, Pacific regional director with the National Police Federation.
Officers are professionals and will always do their job when called upon, he said.
But with the passport program applying to thousands of businesses across the province, he said enforcement will pose challenges under current resources.
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“We’ve had over 650 deployments to wildfires. And then you’ve got Ferry Creek, which is very resource-heavy … You’ve got an increase in mental health calls with COVID taking its toll on people,” he said.
“So our concerns are very high about what this will look like for the members. And there’s only so many calls we can attend. So what will [happen] until we get more resources, I’m not sure where we go from there.”
During the second and third wave of the pandemic, police were called on to enforce a ban on social gatherings, and Farrer said the scope of the new program means the pressure on police could be “magnitudes” larger.
He said there are also potential safety concerns for front-line officers called to enforce vaccine passport disputes.
“One is, of course, contracting COVID,” Farrer said.
“The second safety concern is these become quite volatile situations. If it gets to the point where police are called to one of these disputes, it’s unlikely a single officer should be attending.”
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Farrer said if police are going to be on the front lines of enforcing the program, both the provincial and federal governments need to step up with more funding and resources.
B.C.’s proof of immunization program comes into effect on Sept. 13, after which people will need to demonstrate they’ve had at least one COVID-19 vaccine to access a number of non-essential services, including bars and restaurants, indoor sports games and indoor concerts.
By Oct. 24, people will need to show they are fully vaccinated.
The province says it will supply a secure web link before Sept. 13 where people can confidentially access their proof of vaccination. People unable to access records online will be given a secure alternative, according to health officials.
The program is slated to remain in effect until at least January.
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