Kootnekoff: Legal framework amid COVID-19 fears

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, an Okanagan based-law practice

Have you wondered what legal framework governs B.C.’s response to COVID-19?

The Emergency Program Act (EPA), passed in 1993, is the principal legislation for responding to disasters and emergencies in British Columbia.

If the Minster of Public Safety, or the entire cabinet, is satisfied that an emergency exists or is imminent, the Minister or cabinet may declare a state of emergency under s. 9(1) of the EPA.

The Minister may then exercise certain powers to respond to that emergency. Section 10 of the EPA allows the Minister to do all acts and implement all procedures he considers necessary to prevent, respond to, or alleviate the effects of an emergency or disaster, including certain specified powers.

Anyone who contravenes the EPA or a regulation made under it, or who “interferes with or obstructs any person in the exercise of any power or the performance of any duty conferred or imposed under” the EPA may be fined up to $10,000 or imprisoned for up to one year, or both.

The government’s powers during this time are limited by legislation, the common law, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Under the EPA, a declared state of emergency expires 14 days from the date it is made. The Lieutenant Governor in Council may extend the duration of the declaration for further periods of not more than 14 days at a time.

Under section 11, when, in the opinion of the minister or the Lieutenant Governor in Council, an emergency no longer exists in an area in relation to which a declaration of a state of emergency was declared, the minister or the Lieutenant Governor in Council must make an order cancelling the declaration of a state of emergency in respect of that area.

On March 17, 2020, before the state of emergency was declared under the EPA, the Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, declared a “public health emergency” under the Public Health Act.

On March 18, 2020, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General issued Ministerial Order M073 under the EPA, declaring a state of emergency throughout the entire province respecting COVID-19.

Since then, the Minister has made numerous ministerial orders under the EPA, including M094 dated April 2, 2020 and M120 dated April 22, 2020 which relieved essential services from liability for damages caused by exposure to COVID-19 in certain circumstances. Many were aimed at making life easier for some, such M089 and M098 regarding residential evictions. The Ministerial Orders are available here.

The state of emergency has been extended four times. The most recent extension is until May 26, 2020.

Declaring a state of emergency over the entire province is an extraordinary and rarely used measure. While some may have considered this necessary, others may feel that their rights have been violated, and may seek to pursue legal remedies.

Missed last week’s column?

Kootnekoff: Changes to the Employment Standards Act

About : Susan Kootnekoff

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, an Okanagan based-law practice. She has been practicing law since 1994, with brief stints away to begin raising children. Susan has experience in many areas of law, but is most drawn to areas in which she can make a positive difference in people’s lives, including employment law. She has been a member of the Law Society of Alberta since 1994 and a member of the Law Society of British Columbia since 2015. Susan grew up in Saskatchewan. Her parents were both entrepreneurs, and her father was also a union leader who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of workers. Before moving to B.C., Susan practiced law in both Calgary and Fort McMurray, AB. Living and practicing law in Fort McMurray made a lasting impression on Susan. It was in this isolated and unique community that her interest in employment law, and Canada’s oil sands industry, took hold. In 2013, Susan moved to the Okanagan with her family, where she currently resides.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Penticton man who rescued family from fire says it’s him who needed rescuing

Months after saving Linda Pakfec and her family from a burning building, Gord Portman says he’s clean

‘We have your grandson’ – Princeton seniors scammed out of thousands of dollars

Two elderly Princeton men are saying they were robbed of thousands of… Continue reading

VIDEO: Active graduate receives Summerland Secondary School’s top honour

Devyn Slade was presented with the Verrier Award and Matsu Memorial Scholarship

Four people rescued after floating past Penticton’s Skaha Bridge

Elevated water levels prompts safety message from local fire department

Bags of dog feces donated to Princeton charity thrift store

A Princeton Crisis Assistance Centre volunteer was made almost physically ill after… Continue reading

All community COVID-19 outbreaks declared over in B.C.

Abbotsford manufacturer cleared by Dr. Bonnie Henry

B.C. First Nations vow to keep fighting after Trans Mountain pipeline appeal denied

Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Coldwater Indian Band made the application

Noose graffiti not tolerated by Vernon resident

Woman, son paint over hateful image painted on neighbourhood fence

‘Queue jumpers’ not welcome in B.C. as COVID-19 U.S. cases rise: Horgan

Premier Horgan said he’s heard concerns that Americans have stopped at Vancouver hotels instead of heading to their destination

HERGOTT: The right to resist unlawful arrest

Paul Hergott is a personal injury lawyer based in West Kelowna

Finale of seven-week food drive arrives at FreshCo Kelowna

The new grocery store has partnered with the organization for a food drive

US officer resigns after photos, connected to death of black man in 2019, surface

Elijah McClain died, last summer, after police placed him in a chokehold

‘We need to re-think our systems’: Kelowna mayor on RCMP Southeast Division statement

The RCMP held a news conference on Thursday, July 2 to address concerns in the force

Most Read