Kootnekoff: Legal framework amid COVID-19 fears

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

Just Posted

Cody Younker, city councillor for Revelstoke, was elected two years ago. (Contributed)
2 year anniversary: Cody Younker is up to the challenge the next years will bring

As council looks back on their first two years in office, a byelection looms

grapes.
Morning Start: Grapes light on fire in the microwave

Your morning start for Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020

A man wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Vancouver on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
212 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

A total of 490 cases remain active; 15 in hospital

A small fraction of the people behind the Christmas Hamper Program in 2019. From left to right, Larry Olsson, Patti Larson, Kathleen Hammond and Gladys Dyer. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
In the giving spirit? Here is what you can do this Christmas season

Support Revelstoke Community Connections Christmas programs this year

Okanagan College students Michael Ochoa and Tallin Gregoire, both members of the Okanagan Indian Band, raised the Okanagan Nation Alliance flag on July 16, 2019,  outside the Vernon campus. (Karissa Gall photo)
First Nations reconciliation personified at Okanagan College

President Jim Hamilton’s foresight has opened post-secondary education doors for Okanagan College’s Indigenous students

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

RCMP are offering some helpful ways to send the Grinch home empty handed this holiday season. (Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP)
‘Tis the season to protect your packages: North Okanagan RCMP

Send the Grinch home empty handed this Christmas season

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

Paramedics register patients at a drive through, pop-up COVID-19 test centre outside the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, in Ottawa, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians aren’t currently worried that people in other countries might get a COVID-19 vaccine first. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Canadians not worried other countries will get COVID-19 vaccine first: poll

Forty-one per cent of respondents say they want the vaccine to be mandatory for all Canadians

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Join Rob Dinwoodie and bandmates for a Cowboy Christmas, Dec. 11 and 12 at Vernon and District Performing Arts Center. Seating is cabaret style on the stage for an intimate concert. (Contributed)
North Okanagan cowboys go virtual for Christmas

Cowboy Christmas streamed Dec. 11-25

Vernon is getting in the Christmas spirit with many homes decorating with lights and extras. (Caitlin Clow - Morning Star)
Christmas lights tour mapped out by Vernon Realtor

More than 20 of the community’s best-lit houses make up annual tradition

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Most Read