Is a skating rink an outdoor gathering? New Ontario rules present questions, Tory says
Published Wednesday, January 13, 2021 8:14AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 14, 2021 7:35AM EST
The Ford government has some explaining to do when it comes to the finer points of its new stay-at-home order, Toronto Mayor John Tory said Wednesday, saying the new rules do not make clear whether outdoor amenities like skating rinks or tobogganing hills should be shut down or curtailed.
As part of Ontario’s new second state of emergency, to take effect tomorrow, the province released new rules for outdoor gatherings, reducing their size to five, but also making a reference to closing outdoor amenities, without specifically naming any.
“It says right here that no person is permitted to use an indoor or outdoor recreational amenity that is required to be closed,” Tory told CP24 on Wednesday. “But it says skating rinks can be open – we have 54 skating rinks or some number like that, and so the question becomes are they supposed to be open or closed?”
City spokesperson Brad Ross told CP24 they are reviewing the provincial legislation and will have more to say about how it impacts outdoor activities this afternoon.
The legislative interpretation excitement and confusion for Ontario’s municipal leaders today will also include how to interpret the new five-person limit on outdoor gatherings.
“It also says organized public gatherings and social events are limited to five people,” Tory said. “So is a skating rink an organized social or public event, or is it not? We have a limit of 25 people on those rinks.”
Tory said he welcomes the additional clarification coming down from the Ford government today, saying ordinary folks shouldn’t have to parse through lengthy documents to figure out how they can live their lives.
“The public shouldn’t be expected to do what I am doing here which is reading a 40 page document. The Government of Ontario, which is putting forward these regulations, should be explaining exactly what these regulations are meant to achieve.”
Ontario officials are expected to clarify points about the new stay at home order and state of emergency on Wednesday.
Groups such as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association expressed concern about the move to give peace officers “wider discretion” to ticket individuals who are out for non-essential reasons, and whether the homeless will be disproportionately targeted.
Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police Executive Director Jeff McGuire told CP24 they too are awaiting more direction about how the new measures will work.
"We’re waiting for some more wording on the actual declaration and the statue and the fines."
He said that given the fact police must respond to all of their regular calls, the public should not expect to see officers bashing down doors of homes to check on gatherings.
"I don’t foresee stop points and checkpoints and ride spot checks being used to enforce this but officers will be responding to calls from concerned citizens about large groups outdoors."
Housing advocates are also demanding the province freeze residential evictions, which the province says could be coming in “days.”