This blog was prepared with the assistance of Angalee Ghirra, summer law student.
The Government of British Columbia introduced the COVID-19 Related Measures Act (the “Act”) to allow emergency provisions enacted in response to the pandemic to be formalized and extended past the end of the provincial state of emergency.
A range of actions are contemplated by the legislation to support citizens, essential service workers and businesses while the effects of the pandemic continue to be experienced.
The Act recognizes the likelihood that the impacts of COVID-19 will be long-lasting and ensures that provisions created for citizens and businesses in response to the pandemic extend beyond the declared provincial state of emergency. Ministerial orders made by the Solicitor General in BC under the Emergency Program Act are currently formulated to dissolve immediately at the end of the declared state of emergency. The Act extends specific COVID-19 related ministerial orders beyond the time the province is declared to be in a state of emergency.
Formalizing these emergency measures is necessary in order to provide adequate protection to those who are still feeling the effects of COVID-19 after the declared state of emergency is over. Examples of orders that are being extended include but are not limited to orders for limitation periods, electronic witnesses of enduring powers of attorney and representation agreements, electronic witnessing of wills and Supreme Court and Family applications.
The Act aims to ensure that British Columbians are protected even after the declaration of the state of emergency has been lifted by doing the following:
- Extending certain ministerial orders that have already been enacted under the Emergency Program Act by either 45 or 90 days after the provincial state of emergency has ended;
- Providing the possibility for the extension of COVID-19 related orders by up to one year after the Act is brought into force;
- Incorporating current ministerial orders made under section 10 of the Emergency Program Act into the Act;
- Allowing for the creation of regulations that provide protection from civil liability, except in circumstances of gross negligence (e. emergency orders to protect essential service providers, such as child-care services, where they operate responsibly and in accordance with public health orders and guidelines), and
- Introducing permanent amendments to the Emergency Program Act that clarify that the powers available to the Minister under section 10 of the Emergency Program Act requires that the Minister ‘do all acts and implement all procedures that the minister considers necessary’ and delegates specific powers to cabinet.
A full version of the Act, including a schedule of all the ministerial orders that are to be extended is available here.
Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.