Saanich police were called to break up a gathering in Braefoot Park on Wednesday night amid COVID-19 concerns.
Officers received a noise complaint around 7:30 p.m. on March 25, said Sgt. Damian Kowalewich of the Saanich Police Department. Residents neighbouring the park reported that a group had gathered in the park and that liquor, music and slack-lining were noted.
When police arrived, only two men remained in the park, Kowalewich said. They were in the process of cleaning up.
The men were polite and apologetic, he said. They told police they’d been practicing social distancing during the gathering, but Kowalewich pointed out that neighbours were “concerned enough to call it in.”
The officers reinforced the importance of physically distancing oneself from others to halt the spread of the virus as recommended by health officials. The protocols need to be followed, Kowalewich said.
He said while the group in Braefoot Park was not ticketed, the consequences for ignoring the province’s COVID-19 safety orders are set to become more severe.
On March 26, B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced that Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s orders – including a ban on gatherings of 50 or more people made through the Provincial Health Act – are law, not suggestions.
Farnworth went on to say that Henry’s orders will now be enforced by municipal bylaw officers and that people found breaking the rules could face fines or jail time.
Kowalewich expects a coordinated, province-wide enforcement approach for police and bylaw officers to be rolled out in the near future.
– With files from Katya Slepian.