Police COVID roadblocks, Quarantine Act breached by Flat Earth conference attendee, and Small Claims online
This week on Legally Speaking with Michael Mulligan:
The BC Government has proposed police roadblocks to enforce travel restrictions between health authorities, in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Because there are significantly different rates of infection in different parts of the province, this objective is understandable.
Unfortunately, contrary to the premier’s assertion that police will be able to conduct roadblocks of this kind without any new authority, that is not the case.
Police have the authority to stop vehicles for motor vehicle-related purposes, such as to ensure the sobriety of the driver, that the driver has a valid licence, and the vehicle is properly insured and mechanically sound.
Police do not have the authority to stop vehicles for other kinds of investigations unless, at a minimum, they already have reasonable grounds to suspect that the occupants are connected to particular criminal activity. The police would not be permitted to, for example, pull cars over at random, or set up a roadblock, to search for drugs or stolen property.
In addition, police are independent of government: they are not obliged to set up roadblocks at the direction of the government. Some police representatives have already made clear that they are not prepared to participate in the proposed scheme.
Finally, the province has not provided vaccines to police officers so asking them to conduct roadblocks of the type suggested would put both the police officers and people being stopped, at risk.
There is, however, a safe and lawful means to accomplish the government’s objective.
Section 23 of the Public Health Act permits health officers to stop a person or vehicle for purposes including determining if “a health hazard exists or likely exists in or on the vehicle or place, or in relation to the activities of the person…”. The government could designate nurses, or other medical professionals, as health officers pursuant to section 71 of the Public Health Act.
Unlike police, the designated medical practitioners would have the legal authority to conduct checks or cars at ferry terminals or elsewhere. They would also be vaccinated.
This approach would also address many of the concerns expressed by the BC Civil Liberties Association, The BC Assembly of First Nations, the Criminal Defence Advocacy Society, and others relating to the use of police checkpoints.
Also on the show, a COVID-denier, who attended a Flat Earth conference in South Carolina, had his claim against the Premier, AG, and others, dismissed after he was arrested and held in jail for 4 days following three alleged breaches of the Quarantine Act, upon his return to BC.
In dismissing the man’s claim, the judge hearing the case said that he was not without sympathy, because the man learned the hard way that laws do not work on an “opt-in” basis.
Finally, on the show, Small Claims rules for civil claims between $5,001 and $35,000, have been amended as a result of COVID-19 to permit various steps in the process to be conducted by phone or video connection.
Other steps, such as a trial, would presumptively be conducted in person.
On application, a judge has the authority to depart from the default online or in-person option.
Follow this link for a transcript of the show and links to the case discussed.