B.C. seeking legal advice on ability to stop non-essential travellers

The delicate issue of a travel ban and its impacts on Whistler

Premier John Horgan says his government is seeking legal advice on whether it can restrict non-essential travel both within and from outside the province amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have challenges when it comes to mobility within Canada. We are getting further legal advice on that,” Horgan told reporters in his first news conference of 2021 on Thursday.

“On the surface, it would seem it would be simple just to tell people not to come here. We want to make sure stay home, stay in place until we get through this.”

Health officials in B.C. have repeatedly urged people from other provinces not to travel here, but have no legal authority to stop them.

A recommendation against non-essential travel within British Columbia has been in place since mid-November.

“I want to put this either to rest so that British Columbians understand we cannot do that and we are not going to do that or there is a way to do it and we are going to work with other provinces to achieve it,” Horgan said.

“It is time to put it to bed finally and say, either we can do this and how or we can’t do it and this is the reason why.”

The Atlantic provinces have made themselves a bubble, but Horgan said that’s “easier to manage than it would be here in B.C.”

Resort communities such as Whistler have seen a recent influx of out-of-province visitors, including from Ontario and Quebec, where COVID-19 transmission has been much higher than in British Columbia.

“British Columbians are worried about people coming from elsewhere when they are making sacrifices of their own,” Horgan said.

“We have been trying our best to make sure this is consistent with the public concern and the charter. The fundamental rights of people here in Canada and legal advice is what we sought.”

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