Vancouver City Council unanimously declares state of emergency

Mar 19 2020, 12:30 pm

City Council has unanimously passed a vote declaring a state of emergency in Vancouver.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart made the recommendation on Wednesday in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and called for a special council meeting to be held on Thursday morning.

A state of emergency is declared when council members vote to enact a by-law designed to give them the tools needed to help deal with the crisis. A report from Sadhu Johnston, City Manager, says that the by-law “will also authorize the Council to exercise powers necessary to deal effectively with the emergency.”

The emergency powers, in this case, refer to being able to acquire land or personal property to “alleviate the effects of the emergency.” This could include using buildings to assist in healthcare, shelter, and childcare.

Emergency powers also involve allowing the City to procure clothing, equipment, medical, and other essential supplies, as well as being able to restrict the use or occupancy of premises within the City of Vancouver.

On Wednesday, Stewart recognized the ongoing issues within grocery stores and pharmacies, as well as some restaurants in Vancouver that weren’t following proper protocols of social distancing.

“We have seen empty shelves and panic shopping in the last few days. This is unacceptable,” he adds. “There is no food or supply shortage but there is a serious problem with people hoarding and overbuying.”

The mayor says that he will take action with local retailers if residents continue to hoard food and supplies.

First responders and police officers will also have more flexibility in deploying resources and enforcing public orders.

The state of emergency by-law does not have an end date or expiration date, however, it can be repealed at a later city council meeting.

It was also clarified during the meeting that it’s unclear at this point whether the by-law will allow the City to prevent evictions. At this time, city staff say that evictions would fall under provincial jurisdiction, although they’re seeing what they would be able to do under the Vancouver Charter.

More info to come… 

With coronavirus on the rise, BC public health authorities are reminding individuals who attend events and large gatherings to monitor their health for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. And if you’re not feeling well, they recommend staying home at this time. Also, due to unexpected cancellations, please check the event you plan to attend is still taking place. Keep up with COVID-19 news here.