Local RCMP hand out violation tickets for parties and protest gatherings defying pandemic restrictions

By Steve Hubrecht


The local Columbia Valley RCMP has been, in the past few months, dealing with people not complying with provincial health orders related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and have issued multiple violation tickets and even made an arrest, according to the RCMP spokesperson.

The details of these incidents were discussed by Columbia Valley RCMP sergeant Darren Kakuno during his quarterly report to Invermere council last week on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

Councillor Ute Juras asked Kakuno how the RCMP goes about enforcing the provincial health orders and the related restrictions that have been in place since late November. He responded that COVID-19 calls are “complaints driven” and outlined that from the beginning of December through to the end of January, the RCMP had dealt with 11 such calls.

Kakuno explained that two calls involved groups gathering at Lake Windermere (one of which was a group of youths). Officers dealt with these incidents through education, he added. Another call centred on an individual that the caller felt was failing to comply with the provincial health orders, but when officers attended the scene, they found the individual was, in fact, compliant with the directives.

Three of the calls revolved around people hosting parties in their homes, in clear contravention of the health orders. “In each of those situations, violation tickets were issued,” said Kakuno, adding that officers also received a fourth call about parties that was called in after the fact, and which consequently, officers took an educational approach to handle the situation.

“Two calls were related to protests in Invermere and to this point (gathering of people), against provincial health order regulations) three violations tickets were issued,” continued Kakuno, and “two calls were related to individuals failing to wear a mask in a store, and as a result, one male was arrested and a violation ticket issued for that.”

Councillor Greg Anderson added he’s seen several instances of people in Invermere failing to wear masks, saying that “in a grocery store I went into tonight there was a couple who refused to put masks on. The staff (who Anderson outlined were elderly women) were not in a position to enforce it. It was very awkward. There were upset people, but they just refused to put masks on. How do you handle situations like that?”

“We certainly want to know about that, because we don’t have any tolerance for that. I’m not sure if that (the grocery store incident) was called in or not…but if that’s occurring, we want a phone call. As long as our members aren’t tied up with priority calls, they will come deal with that,” replied Kakuno. “Of the COVID-19 (mask) complaint calls, in one of them, it took some time (for the attending officer) to figure who the individual was. By the time the officer had figured it out, the individual had moved on and was no longer in the area. The other one, it was called in at the time, so our officer was able to get there, and a violation ticket was issued.”

“There are a few people out there that are trying to battle it (the restrictions associated with provincial health orders),” said Invermere mayor Al Miller, adding that on Sunday in Home Hardware (of which Miller is the owner), a customer refused to put on a mask. Miller related that the woman said she was exempt from the restrictions, so Home Hardware outlined to her that they couldn’t let anybody without a mask into the store but could instead offer her curbside service.

“She was not ready to pay attention to that,” said Miller. “We had her ushered out of the store, but it was difficult.”

He added that a similar incident had occurred before, involving a couple refusing to wear masks. “That took a lot of management time,” said Miller. “They said ‘you’re not servicing us.’ We said, ‘yes, we will service you, but from the curb.’…Next time we won’t mess around, just a quick call to the RCMP and forget it.” Kakuno confirmed that was the right approach.

“This couple in the grocery store also said they were exempt (from the restrictions and) it’s just a coincidence that they’re both exempt and they’re a couple,” said Anderson. “Perhaps they are exempt, but if they aren’t, our officers aren’t afraid to enforce the restrictions,” said Kakuno.

Miller pointed to the violation tickets for parties and for protests and then referenced a conference call he’d recently had with provincial officials, including provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, in which part of the discussion had been on people ignoring restrictions and partying in ski towns. “They thought it was wonderful (that police in the Columbia Valley are handing out violation tickets for parties),” said Miller. “It sends a message that ‘we’re here to ski, not to party.’”

Dr. Henry “says the Freedom Lovers, or whatever you want to call them, she’s had her fill of them. They’ve come to visit her home and her office and everything else. But to actually have a fine (for gatherings)…that was the right thing. To have the same thing happening here, it means you’re on the right track,” said Miller to Kakuno. “Thank you for helping the COVID-19 situation.”