ST. JOHN'S — Health Minister Dr. John Haggie offered clarification Wednesday around Bill 38: no police officers may enter a home through the measures introduced on Tuesday.
In Tuesday’s edition, The Telegram incorrectly reported an increase in powers for police as a result of the amended legislation.
Haggie says the changes to the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act introduced in Bill 38 have to do with enshrining the ability of police officers to enforce the public health emergency orders, but do not reduce the requirement for a warrant to enter a home.
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“Because of the nature of our borders, being particularly an island for the Newfoundland portion of the province, was that (the RNC and RCMP) felt they needed the ability to locate, hold an individual and bring them back to a point of entry. They wanted that specifically written into the act,” Haggie said.
“None of these people can enter anyone’s house without a warrant. There’s no changes in those kind of powers at all.”
“Inspectors are different from peace officers,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald added during the Wednesday COVID-19 update.
Inspectors, as defined in the act, are the chief medical officer of health, a regional medical officer of health, an environmental health officer or another person designated by the minister, such as Fisheries and Land Resource officers, who had been designated as investigators weeks ago. Police officers are not defined as investigators under the act, and therefore do not have any increased power to enter areas without a warrant.
RNC Const. James Cadigan says the only change for police resulting from Bill 38 will be an increased presence at entry points into the province to help enforce the travel ban.
“I think the reference to inspector is more applicable to the other services that have been provided with this authority, so you’re talking about wildlife officers who are now going to be utilized to speak to people who maybe arrive on a Marine Atlantic ferry,” said Cadigan.
“From our end, our police authority remains uniform to the way things were prior to this.”
The core of the confusion stemmed from the definitions within the act. Section 50(1) references investigators having the ability “at all reasonable times and without a warrant” … to “enter any premises.”
Premises, as defined by the act, include boats, motor vehicles, bodies of water and trailers, among others — but not dwellings.
Section 50(2) specifically prevents any government official from entering a home without a warrant.
“An inspector shall not enter a dwelling house without the consent of an occupant except under the authority of a warrant,” reads the act.
The Telegram regrets the error.