Most fines for defying mandatory mask policy on Metro Vancouver transit unpaid


VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Over $143,000 in tickets were handed out to people not wearing a mask when it was mandatory on Metro Vancouver transit, but the vast majority of those fines have not been paid.

Transit police data shared with NEWS 1130 shows 626 tickets were issued between November 2020 and the end of June 2021.

“Each provincial violation ticket carries a 230 dollar fine. Tickets that are written by the Metro Vancouver Transit Police are submitted to ICBC. We do not collect payment nor are we involved in follow-up for unpaid tickets,” says a spokesperson.

ICBC records show 245 tickets have been submitted to the Crown corporation. Fifteen of those have been paid — which works out to about 6 per cent. Eighteen tickets were being disputed, and 201 have been ignored.

Lawyer Kyla Lee says the number of unpaid tickets is not shocking.

“I think that what we’ve seen over the last 10 months that we’ve had masks on transit and in B.C/., is we’ve seen the type of people who are opposed to wearing masks on transit are the type of people who are generally defiant to any type of COVID-19, protections including vaccination and other social distancing measures,” she says.

“The fact that they’re not going to participate in the process of paying their tickets when they don’t agree with all of this — that doesn’t surprise me in any way.”

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As with other unpaid fines, failure to pay has the consequence of impacting someone’s ability to renew their driver’s license or car insurance. But Lee says for many people on transit — that wouldn’t be much of a deterrent.

“They could also have created legislation that prevented people from obtaining, renewing, or refilling their Compass cards until they had paid the tickets,” she suggests as an alternative.

“Preventing people from obtaining a new Compass card, locking them out from the ability to get one, and therefore the ability to access transit services if they have an unpaid ticket that’s past due might be a way to change their behaviour.”

However, that option has its pitfalls, Lee says.Over $143,000 dollars in tickets were handed out to people not wearing a mask when it was mandatory on Metro Vancouver transit, but the vast majority of those fines have not been paid.

“It can further marginalize marginalized individuals who are taking transit because they don’t have the financial resources to afford a car or to afford insurance or gas and might not be in a financial position to pay their tickets,” she explains.

“For those people who can’t pay the fines and aren’t in a position to pay them, it might be something that puts them in a better position as they work towards their own recovery from the pandemic, and we know that a lot of people have experienced economic loss.”

RELATED: Only 12% of COVID-19 fines paid in B.C. while majority dispute ticket

Overall, Lee thinks fines worked as a deterrent, although she predicts it is possible the province will not put much effort into collecting.

“While I don’t think it was the most effective way of changing some people’s behaviour, I do think it’s still had an overall effect on getting many people to put their masks on transit and keep them on,” she says.

“It may be that government ultimately ends up sort of abandoning any efforts to collect any of these fines, just because the sort of the need to enforce this rule no longer becomes pressing and substantial. The longer we move away from mandatory masks on transit, the more time that we spend focusing on increasing the vaccination numbers and our reopening plan — I think the attention to the issue of the unpaid transit tickets is going to fall significantly by the wayside.”

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