In August 2020, the city formed an inspection and enforcement team in response to an order by the provincial government, which gave bylaw officers and police more powers to enforce COVID-19 rules. The team, made up of city staff and supported by RCMP when needed, is intended to respond to the public’s complaints of public-gathering rule violations.
Late last week, Chu wrote to staff on the issue and said the team, which is available seven days a week, conducted 2,085 inspections between August 2020 and the first week of January 2021, including 1,016 (49%) that found non-compliances.
And the problem got worse over the holidays. Last month, non-compliances rose to 63% of inspections, according to Chu, whose email was obtained and verified by the NOW.
“Despite the health orders (having) been in place for months, we continue to be surprised by the number of non-compliance cases the inspection team encountered every day,” Chu wrote in the email.
Chu also addressed the issue of out-of-province travel – which the province has advised against but not outright banned – saying some people have continued to travel abroad for non-essential reasons.
In recent days, numerous politicians and public officials, including municipal, provincial and federal politicians, have come under fire for international trips.
“I don't fault people for wanting to travel south to find a warmer and drier place to spend some quality vacation time. But we must remember that we all are affected by COVID and because of that many of us have made personal sacrifices for the sake of our community and our loved ones,” Chu wrote. “In order to end the pandemic quickly, we must collectively follow the orders and guidance provided by the PHO including avoiding non-essential travel out of the province.”
In an email statement to the NOW, the city added to Chu’s email that there has been a community effort to stamp out the spread of the virus.
“Every day, the vast majority of Burnaby residents are making sacrifices to flatten the curve and keep their neighbours safe. In response to those who aren’t, the City of Burnaby has been active and has taken a progressive stance to the provincial health orders,” the city said. “Our bylaws staff are out there every day, educating, ensuring compliance and when necessary, passing information on to RCMP so they can respond with enforcement.”
It’s unclear if any of the city’s inspections have led to fines. Provincewide, fines handed out had reached a combined total of more than $200,000 between August and mid-December, according to Victoria TV station CHEK.