Loading articles...

Ontario extends police authority during provincewide stay-at-home order

Last Updated Apr 16, 2021 at 9:36 pm EDT

Toronto Police Mounted Unit officers patrol a city park in Toronto on Thursday, April 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Ontario is expanding police authority to enforce the provincial stay-at-home order.

Police and bylaw officers will now be allowed to stop and ask you on the street or in a vehicle where you are going and what your home address is.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said the move was made to ensure people are only going out for essential reasons.

“As a government, it is our responsibility to take action to address non-compliance and prevent further transmission of COVID-19,” said Jones. “I cannot stress this enough, it is imperative that everyone limit their trips outside the home.”

Jones added if you are not willing to comply when an officer stops you, then you are breaking the law and the police officer would be able to issue a ticket. The ticket currently is $750 for failing to comply with the stay-at-home order.

The Toronto Police Service say they are currently reviewing the new orders.

“Prior to any change in our enforcement strategy we will notify the public on how we plan to implement the new provincial orders,” they said in a brief statement Friday night.

The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police said officers will do their part to enforce stay-at-home orders and new enforcement measures.

“Our police officers will use their discretion in using such measures,” the association said in a release.

The Waterloo Regional Police Service said it will review the new regulations but in the meantime, it will focus on speaking to people to educate them. It said enforcement will be a last resort.

“We will not be conducting random vehicle or individual stops. As before, our initiatives will be both complaint-driven or proactive, with the goal of gaining compliance,” the service said in a release.

“Those that refuse to comply will receive the appropriate penalty.”

Ontario Provincial Police said in a tweet they will be enforcing the new measures at provincial borders and to limit outdoor recreational activity.

Toronto mayor John Tory said he is concerned about the arbitrary stops of people by police at any time, adding he will be reviewing the regulations “extremely carefully.”

“We need everyone in our city and across the province to follow the public health advice to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Tory tweeted. “City staff are carefully reviewing the new provincial measures announced today and we will have more to say in the days ahead.”

Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie expressed similar concerns.

“This new Provincial order that says ‘police can stop people & ask them what they’re up to’ stuff. I’m checking our Charter out on that one,” he said in a post on Twitter.

“I’m concerned about this & we’re reviewing it. Either way, we’re not going to be policing our way out of this pandemic, that’s for sure.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) criticized the increase in police powers, calling it a “Black Friday of rights slashing by Queen’s Park.”

A statement from Executive Director Michael Bryant said the government is risking a “rash of racial profiling and overbroad police powers.”

“Back-of-the-envelope government responses to pandemic volatility will face constitutional roadblocks,” said Bryant.

“A hodge-podge of pandemic restrictions cannot be policed like this because overzealous enforcers overshoot the mark, based on Canada’s first wave experience.”

Bryant added these restrictions may face a court challenge.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report