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RCMP look to educate before enforce COVID-19 rules, but bad actors could face strict fines

Police and law enforcement officers will look to educate before handing out fines to people not practicing physical distancing or violating the province’s COVID-19 rules.

Albertans can be fined $1000 for violating the Public Health Act and courts can impose an additional $100,000 penalty for a first offence and a $500,000 penalty for subsequent offences.

Fraser Logan, Alberta RCMP Media Relations Manager, told Lakeland Connect that enforcement is   still in its early stages from the RCMP side, but the spirit of the Public Health Act is to inform before enforce.

“It really is about informing people first and making sure they understand why they were stopped and asked and things like this. It really is not enforcement in the way that you would consider like criminal enforcement,” said Logan.

“That’s not to say that every officer does not have the discretion to issue these tickets immediately if they think it’s sort of egregious and I don’t want to get into any scenario as to what that would look like.”

There has been one fine handed out by police so far when an individual from Wetaskiwin threatened to cough on a member and have COVID-19.

They were charged with assault on a police officer and failure to comply with the Public Health Act.

The enforcement of violations will be complaints driven from Alberta Health Services’ website.

Logan said that call didn’t originate from a complaint, but happened afterward.

It is law to follow the restrictions on gatherings to a maximum of 15 people and for non-essential businesses to close.

Returning international travellers must self-isolate for 14 days, people exposed to COVID-19 must self-isolate for 14 days and people experiencing symptoms must self-isolate for a minimum 10 days or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer.

“Everyone needs to know, go to alberta.ca/COVID-19. All those social distancing roles are there. They’re pretty clear in my mind. You do not cohabitate with an individual, you should not be within six feet of them.

“If you’re walking on the streets or taking a path to get your exercise to maintain that social distancing.

“If you’re with your family and you all live together, then, of course, walk together because you’re already together. However, you shouldn’t be out there commingling with other individuals, you need to maintain that distance.

“That’s what those members are going to be reminding people.”

However, bad actors who keep restaurants open or businesses that are non-essential that remain open could be investigated days after the original complaint was made.

“That is conceivable, you have to look at all the sorts of complaints that could happen. There could be some type of restaurant that’s still open or people sitting down, as opposed to takeout or delivery only. That’s a violation.”

These penalties can be enforced by police, bylaw, and peace officers, including sheriffs.