Campbell River RCMP are seeing treatment of drivers with American licence plates that borders on criminal harassment. Photo courtesy Campbell River RCMP

Vancouver Island police say treatment of U.S. licence plate holders bordering harassment

Campbell River RCMP channel Dr. Bonnie Henry when dealing with American plates: Be calm, be kind

Much furor and fear continues to be stirred up in Internet chat rooms and online regarding American licence plates in Canada, RCMP media relations officer Const. Maury Tyre says.

And a lot of it is misplaced.

“First things first, we have an overabundance of snowbirds that live on Vancouver Island. They split their time between places like Palm Springs (California), Scottsdale (Arizona), Galveston (Texas), and Tampa Bay (Florida),” Tyre says in his weekly community update.

RELATED: Dual Canada-U.S. citizens face hostile reception in Port Alberni

RELATED: Horgan advises drivers with non-B.C. plates to take bus to avoid harassment

“When COVID struck hard back in March 2020, many of these people found themselves stranded in the United States with the only way to return being in their cars that were registered in those states. Add to that the extra difficulty of insuring your B.C. vehicle with insurance offices closed, and these folks have continued to drive their American insured vehicles.

“I personally talked to a very nice elderly couple from town while I had my dog at the vet a couple weeks ago and they were already being hassled by people who did not know their story, simply because they had a California plate on their car,” says Const. Tyre.

The same story of returning from the States occurred for many Canadians who work at offices in the United States, they, too, are here with the vehicles they use while they work in the States.

Secondly, we have people in the community with family visiting from the United States. Those family members were here in March and have chosen to stay with their families here for a multitude of reasons. Some examples officers have heard are:

  • Helping care for a new grandchild;
  • The COVID risk in the States means it’s safer to stay put;
  • The ongoing protests and political climate in the states means it’s safer to stay put.

“So please, Campbell River and our fellow Islanders, be calm and be kind,” Const. Tyre says.

If you believe there is a suspicious American that you need to report, call the Canada Border Services Agency on their border watch line 1-888-502-9060. Provide them the who, what, when, wheres of your concerns and they will determine whether RCMP or Health Authority action is required.

“Are they people who would break travel restrictions?” says Const. Tyre. “Of course, as long as there are rules there will be people breaking them, it’s a simple reality. If people are found to be purposefully breaking those rules then they will be dealt with according to law.

“However, we are seeing actions being taken by some that can border on criminal harassment just because somebody has an out-of-country or out-of-province licence plate or a little bit of an accent. I recognize that people are on edge, scared or frustrated, but harassing actions and stirring up a frenzy are just not acceptable and are entirely contrary to the well being of a civil society.”

If you see what you believe is a suspicious American flagged boat or car, contact CBSA at 1-888-502-9060.

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