Police federation calls for more officers to enforce B.C. vaccine passport

The B.C. chapter of the National Police Federation is calling for more resources for officers to adequately enforce the province’s vaccine passport, which comes into effect on Sept. 13. 

The federation, which represents about 20,000 RCMP officers across Canada, issued a statement on Sunday expressing concerns about Premier John Horgan’s recent comments that businesses would be able to call on police to help with difficult customers opposed to the passport. 

“While our members will, as always, professionally respond to businesses and individuals in need of police support, they are being called on to do more and more with no additional resources or funding,” said National Police Federation president Brian Sauvé.

The passport will require proof of vaccination to do things like eat at a restaurant, see a movie in the theatre or take part in a fitness class in B.C. Residents who want to take part in those activities will need at least one dose of vaccine by Sept. 13 and will need to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 24. 

Speaking from Logan Lake, B.C., on Friday, Horgan said if businesses have difficulty with patrons, they could call law enforcement, as they already do. 

‘Just another ask’

But Rob Farrer, director of the National Police Federation’s Pacific division, says RCMP officers are already stretched thin across the province. 

Farrer says about 650 officers have been deployed across B.C. to help with wildfires, and the Fairy Creek protests on Vancouver Island have also taken up a lot of time. 

“It’s just another ask,” Farrer said of the passport enforcement. “Our concern is, where are the resources going to come from for this?”

Making matters worse, Farrer says, is the pandemic’s impact on recruitment over the past 18 months. Whereas a typical year would see 1,200 recruits graduate, this past year only 380 made it through the program. 

Farrer wouldn’t specify how many additional officers would be needed, as it would depend on each municipality’s needs, but the federation has asked for $190 million to beef up its national training division alone. 

An RCMP officer speaks with a motorist in a recreational vehicle travelling to Alaska at a COVID-19 checkpoint on the Trans-Canada Highway north of Boston Bar, B.C., on May 7. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

This isn’t the first time the federation has called out the province about enforcing COVID-19 measures.

In April, it criticized checkpoints that Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced to enforce inter-provincial travel restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the virus. 

The roadblocks were eventually limited to four or five key highways in the province. Farrer says that made it much more manageable for officers to support. 

But a blanket call on police to support businesses across the province that are struggling with anti-passport customers is a whole other level of commitment, Farrer says. 

“We’re not saying don’t call the police if necessary, but we have to be cautious about just saying, ‘Well, the police will do this,'” he said. “We’re fully tasked as it is.” 

CBC News reached out to the premier’s office for comment but did not receive a response before deadline.

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