Prince Rupert City Hall on March 23. City council unanimously declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Council chambers were closed to the public for health safety and councilors participated by telephone. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

State of Emergency declared in Prince Rupert

City council unanimous in decision to protect citizens

  • Mar. 24, 2020 9:45 a.m.

An official state of emergency has been declared in a unanimous decision by Prince Rupert City Council on March 23. The state of emergency has been declared for an initial seven days due to the COVID-19 pandemic and may last for up to three or four months.

“The next step that I really want to make clear to the community is this – what has happened now is the city council has designated the authority to make decisions based on the emergency provisions to the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC),” Lee Brain, mayor said.

“The EOC is a collaboration between the RCMP, incident command, the fire department, city staff, Northern Health and a couple other stake holders who are communicating everyday at 9 a.m. to coordinate efforts across the community. Now they have been added some special provisions so they can implement orders for the community,” Brain said.

“This is the challenge of our life. This is a challenge of this time. It’s a global challenge and we are all in this together. Right now what matters is the action we take as a community and the action that we put forward so that we can all know, in our hearts, that we did everything we possibly could do to protect everyone in this community.”

READ MORE: Prince Rupert mayor to motion for state of emergency

Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry has set clear guidelines that we know are not being followed. We know not everyone is following them, Brain said.

“This is a serious matter in a community that is on an island, in the north, that has limited population and limited resources. One outbreak could be devastating to a community such as ours. Being isolated and living in close quarters with each other, the risks is high here and we must do everything we can in our powers to ensure that we are doing everything we can to protect the families of this community,” Brain said.

“We need to ensure that we are doing everything we can to keep business going but now we are in a time where there needs to be a local response because there are certain things that need to be put in place to protect the community at another level…. There are some specific things in Prince Rupert that likely need to come into place so we can ensure we are not a statistic. I think that’s the mission here, that this community is going to be the story and can be the story of how we fought this virus together as a region.”

“The physicians have sent us very clear and urgent warnings that now is the time to make swift and drastic action. By passing the local emergency declaration it gives the municipality special provisions to be able to move more nimbly to be able to respond to the needs on the ground and to aid the province in the fight against this virus. The idea here is that we are here to enhance their efforts and to work with them to make sure this community is protected and is safe.”

There are several recommendations that the physicians will put forward to the EOC as suggestions for orders pertaining to self isolation and mandated social distancing, supplies of food and rations, recommended orders for businesses, recommendations for transit. Orders will given through out the week Brain said, so compliance can be met and enforced.

Brain was adamant that the highway will not close and there is absolutely no need for residents to worry about supplies coming into the community.

“Trucks are going to come on a regular basis. At this juncture people only need to be shopping like they regularly shop. There is absolutely no need for hoarding. There is absolutely no need for extras or having way more supplies than you need. The supply chain will continue. In very hard hit areas of the world there are still groceries and still supplies. So please understand that will be continuing.”

READ MORE: Prince Rupert doctors push for stringent COVID-19 measures

“We are joined tonight by our colleagues and friends in Haida Gwaii. The Council of the Haida Nation, Skidegate Band Council, Masset Band Council, District of Masset, City of Queen Charlotte are also discussing emergency measures this evening. I believe some have already declared locally states of emergency as I speak, ” Brain said in the council meeting.

“I understand there are some people in this community who want to see very, very strict actions and some who do not want to see many actions at all. There is a balance between all levels of action” Brain said.

“We will ensure that we are working very closely with the EOC to have the community’s needs heard and met. At this time we are in a state of emergency and it is time to move quickly based on the local context of this community.”

The motion, as it was read by Brain and passed unopposed by City Council:

“Where as a pandemic has been declared by the World Health Organization and an EOC level one has been established in the city of Prince Rupert, in response and where the pandemic poses an existing or imminent threat to people and property with in the city of Prince Rupert, where as this pandemic emergency requires prompt coordination of action or special regulations of persons or property to protect the health, safety or welfare of people or to limit damage to property, now there-fore it is hear-by ordered, pursuant to Emergency Program Act. s. 12, 1996 Chapter 111, that a state of local emergency exists in the city of Prince Rupert due to the existing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.”

“It is further ordered that the city of Prince Rupert, it’s employees, servants, and agents are empowered to pursuant to the Emergency Program Act s. 13, to do all acts and implement all procedures that are considered necessary to prevent or to alleviate the effects of the emergency. Ordered by the City of Prince Rupert, on this date March 23, 2020, to remain in force for seven days, until March 30, 2020, unless cancelled by order of the city of Prince Rupert or the Minister responsible.”

K-J Millar | Journalist
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