Sponsors: City of Quesnel
WHEREAS in the wake of BC wildfires, many reports were made of persons illegally accessing restricted fire zones and in particular vulnerable evacuation zones to commit wildfire crime including trespass, vandalism, looting, theft of personal property, theft of wildfire fighting equipment and supplies and impersonation of wildfire or emergency personnel ('fire marshals');
AND WHEREAS the BC Emergency Act and the Criminal Code of Canada are in need of strengthened language and provisions to specifically and appropriately target and prosecute perpetrators of wildfire crime, including crime which potentially threatens firefighter life and safety;
AND WHEREAS penalties appropriate to the severity of such criminal activity in fire zones and vulnerable evacuation zones would enable and provide for meaningful prosecution and conviction, as well as providing a strong and effective deterrent to persons considering such crime:
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Province of British Columbia AND the Government of Canada be encouraged to take whatever actions deemed necessary to enable and provide for more appropriate and meaningful penalties for such wildfire crime and/or other similar emergencies situations.
UBCM Comments: The UBCM membership has not previously considered a resolution that specifically requests the Federal and Provincial Governments increase penalties related to crimes committed in active wildfire areas or during other active emergency situations.
UBCM membership recently endorsed resolution 2016-B6 seeking greater consultation and involvement of local governments in fire management planning, communication and activity. In response, the provincial government cited its work to keep local governments informed about fire activity, as well as funding options to reduce wildfire risks.
In 2016, Emergency Management BC initiated a review of the Emergency Program Act. As part of the review, local governments were asked to respond to a number of specific questions related to the Act, including potential policy changes, as part of a provincial discussion paper. Although wildfire crime was not included as a topic for discussion in the provincial paper, respondents were asked to consider adding authority for police to apprehend any person who refuses to comply with an evacuation order issued under a declared state of emergency for the purpose of taking the person to a place of safety. Local government respondents were generally not supportive of this policy option.