BANFF – As the warmer weather draws more people outside, the Town of Banff plans to step up enforcement of rules set up to stop the spread of COVID-19.
From March 27 to April 20, Banff RCMP issued warnings to 210 individuals and municipal enforcement warned another 235 people for breaching public health orders during the pandemic.
Silvio Adamo, the Town of Banff’s director of emergency management, said education has been the priority, but the municipality will start to transition to more enforcement if people continue violating the province’s COVID-19 social-distancing rules.
“I think it’s primarily young folks who have a lot of time on their hands, that aren't working, and on a nice sunny day like to gather outside,” said Adamo.
“Sometimes they end up getting a little too close and sometimes alcohol is a factor.”
As of March 25, law enforcement agencies have been granted authority to enforce Alberta’s public health orders.
Violators may be subject to tickets of $1,000 per occurrence, while courts could administer fines of up to $100,000 for a first offence and up to $500,000 for a subsequent offence for more serious violations.
Under Alberta’s public health orders, no gathering of more than 15 people is allowed in one indoor or outdoor location. People gathered in groups of fewer than 15 people must maintain a distance of two metres, or six feet, from one another. Gatherings must occur in a space that allows for mandated physical distancing.
Given the nature of Banff’s housing, such as staff accommodations that can house many people, Adamo said it is sometimes difficult to determine who actually lives in the residence.
“Because Banff’s living circumstances are as they are, with people living in larger settings, it’s sometimes difficult to discern whether they’re a group of people coming from various households and gathering, or if it’s all from one household,” he said.
“Moving forward, we will have to try to verify that prior to being able to use that COVID-19 enforcement tactic. That’s why there’s such a large number of warnings that you see.”
RCMP Staff Sergeant Michael Buxton-Carr said police continue to approach and educate people about the importance of abiding by the public health orders, but fines are an option that have yet to be used.
In two recent cases, he said police did notice people who were not following social-distancing rules – at Central Park and the Bow River Trail.
Using their discretion, he said RCMP ended up fining the two individuals for open liquor violations.
“We have been taking the approach of education first, and enforcement is an escalated measure,” he said.
“We approached the gatherings and reminded them about the guidelines and respecting social distancing and just happened to notice a liquor infraction, so we took action on that.”
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