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OPINION – BC Civil Liberties Assn Response to New BC Travel Restrictions – Supportive with Concerns Over Enforcement

Vancouver – From the BCCLA media release: We are supportive of measures taken to reduce travel and enable people and communities to stay safe from COVID-19. Our major concern with this new order is related to its enforcement measures and the unconstitutional expansion of police powers.

We are pleased to see that a number of concerns in our joint letter were taken into account by the provincial government in drafting the new order. It is reassuring that the province has amalgamated certain health authorities, provided expansive definitions of essential travel, limited road side checks to highways and ferry terminals, only drivers will be questioned (not vehicle passengers, cyclists, pedestrians or those on public transit); and divers are not required to provide any documentation to support their purpose of travel.

However, our key concern remains with the deeply intrusive power being given to police. The new order does give police expanded powers and expands the scope of police powers than what is normally permissible. Compelling people to answer additional questions from police violates the protections against arbitrary detention, the right to silence, the right to counsel, and the right against self-incrimination.

We urge the province to strongly consider the impacts this order has on already overpoliced communities. Both the expansion in police powers and the discretionary police power to enforce and issue fines runs the real risk of further entrenching systemic racism in policing. We need measures to protect our health that do not involve policing of the pandemic.

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