Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is calling on Solicitor General Sylvia Jones to step down for arming police with enhanced powers to stop and question citizens during the province-wide stay-at-home order that was extended on Friday.
“Moving forward, police will have the authority to require any individual who is not in a place of residence to first provide their purpose for not being home, and provide their home address,” Jones said on Friday. “Police will also have the authority to stop a vehicle to inquire about an individual’s reason for leaving their residence.”
Failure to comply when an officer stops you could result in a $750 ticket, Jones added at the time.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) responded by saying the new police powers would lead to “a rash of racial profiling and overbroad police powers.”
On Saturday after considerable backlash, Jones backtracked, saying officers would no longer have the right to arbitrarily stop pedestrians or drivers.
Instead, she said, police would only be permitted to stop people they have reason to believe are participating in an “organized public event or social gathering.”
“Our priority has always been to address and discourage gatherings and crowds that violate the stay-at-home order and have the potential to further spread COVID-19,” Jones said in a statement. “That is why we provided police services with the additional temporary authority to enforce the stay-at-home order by putting a stop to gatherings and crowds.”
On Monday, Horwath said it was too little too late, and said Jones should step down.
“There’s no doubt that Doug Ford and Sylvia Jones both have some explaining to do,” she said.
“For the Solicitor General of the province of Ontario to invoke a police state? Absolutely abhorrent and yes I believe she needs to go, absolutely, no doubt about it in my mind.”
Toronto was among numerous police forces to say it would not be conducting the random stops.
“The Toronto Police Service will continue to engage, educate and enforce, but we will not be doing random stops of people or cars,” the force tweeted.
2/2 We can all do our part for the health & safety of everyone. The Toronto Police Service will continue to engage and enforce equitably and effectively, recognizing always that we must inspire public trust.
— Toronto Police (@TorontoPolice) April 17, 2021
“I was proud to watch as one after another, police forces across Ontario said they had no interest in enforcing a police state in our province and I was proud to see that,” Horwath said.
“I would like to see the government remove that regulation entirely and I hope that that happens.”
Horwath also responded to rumours that a cabinet shuffle was looming for the Ford government.
“If Doug Ford thinks that the people of Ontario are going to forget what’s happened over this last year, I think he’s underestimating Ontarians. So if he wants to play some sort of political shuffle, if he wants to keep working on protecting his own political ego, then he’s welcome to do so, but the people of Ontario are not going to buy it.
“We all are living this hell together and all we know who brought it to us, Doug Ford walked us right into this third wave and right into this disaster.”