All about COVID fines and actions you can get ticketed for
By Jessica Berget, Assistant Editor
The enforcement of mask wearing on SkyTrain and bus loading areas (or any indoor or sheltered areas as per the ministerial order on mask use) may not be common knowledge as there are little to no postages or signs highlighting this rule.
On March 25, the BC government upped the ante for those found not complying with COVID-19 ministerial orders on social gatherings by increasing fines from $230 to $575. For those who wish to avoid such fines, here is everything you can be COVID fined for in BC.
The current province-wide restrictions include the banning of social gatherings of any size inside a household with anyone who does not live in that household (unless someone lives alone which they are allowed a core bubble of two people). Outdoor gatherings are allowed for up to 10 people, but groups may not gather at one table in restaurants or bars. For this, the fine has been increased to $575—and the fine for organizing or promoting such a gathering remains at $230.
People can also be fined for drinking past 11 pm in restaurants or bars, being a passenger on a limo or party bus, be in attendance or encourage people to attend a party that goes against health restrictions, and more. Fines can be issued by more than just police officers; community safety units, liquor and cannabis inspectors, gaming investigators, and conservation officers are also able to hand out fines. For repeat offenders, police can recommend changes to the offender and upon conviction can turn into one-year jailtime and/or a $10,000 fine according to the BC government.
On public transit, in August 2020, a mandatory mask wearing rule was implemented for SkyTrains, SkyTrain boarding areas, and buses. Although TransLink’s mandatory mask wearing rule when on the SkyTrain or bus is widely known by all commuters, the enforcement of mask wearing on SkyTrain and bus loading areas (or any indoor or sheltered areas as per the ministerial order on mask use) may not be common knowledge as there are little to no postages or signs highlighting this rule. Fines can now be handed out to people if caught not wearing a proper medical face mask or face covering in places like bus loops, loading stations, platforms, bus stops, and bus exchanges according to the TransLink website.
The website also states that face shields are also no longer considered a viable alternative to masks and Transit Police will inquire with anyone not wearing proper face coverings and can issue fines of $230. Since masks became mandatory, Transit Police have handed out over $74,000 worth of these $230 fines; 228 in 2020 and 94 up to February 21, 2021. A transit spokesperson has said anyone who disagrees with their fine or the provincial health order are welcome to dispute the ticket in court (up to 30 days after receiving the violation ticket). People who refuse to pay but don’t dispute the ticket after 30 days are considered to have pleaded guilty and their file will be sent to collections.
A February 2021 poster from the BC Office of Human Rights Commissioner lists exemptions from the Ministerial Mask Order for people under 12 years old, people unable to wear masks because of medical, physical, or mental conditions, and people who cannot put on or take off a mask without assistance.