Enforcement confusion: Peace officers still ‘awaiting direction’ from AHS

EDMONTON — When it comes to enforcing COVID-19-related public health restrictions in Edmonton, the mayor says the time for education is over.

But it seems city peace officers are not being asked to do much more than educate when it comes to enforcement of provincial health restrictions. 

The city said Wednesday evening that it received written authority to begin enforcement of provincial public health orders but that it was still “awaiting direction from Alberta Health Services on what complaints should be followed up on.”

CTV News Edmonton asked AHS on Thursday what it has told municipalities regarding enforcement of recently mandated public health orders. 

“AHS does not provide direction to police, RCMP or municipal enforcement,” said AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson in a statement.

“If AHS is made aware of a complaint, and, following an inspection or investigation, deems that further action is required by either police, RCMP or city bylaw, we will contact them,” said Williamson.

CTV News asked the city if it has received the direction it sought since its statement Wednesday. A spokesperson said an answer would be provided Friday.

THE ROLE OF PEACE OFFICERS

Before new restrictions came into effect, Iveson had been vocal about empowering peace officers to help enforce provincial health restrictions.

Now that they have that power, Iveson said Thursday the role of those officers is to “provide backup” and “do some proactive enforcement.”

“The first line of defence for handling the complaints about the provincial orders is in fact AHS’ own public health officers who should be responding to those,” said Iveson. 

The mayor added he was in favour of a more stringent approach to enforcement.

“At this point in the pandemic, when the public health situation is so grave, I’m all for folks getting the stiffest penalties that are available,” Iveson said.

The city statement said, in the meantime, bylaw officers would continue enforcing the municipal face-covering/mask bylaw, which is seeing strong compliance.

Last week, city interim manager said upwards of 160 peace officers would receive training to help enforce the provincial public health orders. 

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