Ontario gives police authority to stop people, vehicles, ask purpose of travel
Published Friday, April 16, 2021 4:45PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, April 16, 2021 5:42PM EDT
The Ontario government is giving police temporary powers to enforce its stay-at-home order and allowing them to stop individuals and vehicles and ask their reasons for leaving their homes.
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones made the announcement Friday afternoon as part of the new measures introduced by Premier Doug Ford's government to stop the further spread of COVID-19.
"We have made the deliberate decision to temporarily enhance police officers' authority for the duration of the stay-at-home order. Moving forward, police will have the authority to require any individual who is not in a place of residence to first provide the purpose for not being at home and provide their home address," Jones said.
"Police will also have the authority to stop a vehicle to inquire about an individual's reason for leaving their residence."
It will come into effect as of Saturday, Apr. 17.
Jones said the decision was made as some people continue to leave their residences for non-essential reasons. She added the government needs to take action to address non-compliance.
"I cannot stress this enough. It is imperative that everyone limit their trips outside of the home to permitted purposes only, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, medical appointments, outdoor exercise, or for work, that cannot be done remotely," she said.
Those who will not comply will be issued a ticket, Jones said. The province has not provided further details on possible fines, but she said under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, penalties for non-compliance are set at a minimum of $750.
The Ontario government also announced that travellers from Manitoba and Quebec will be barred from entering Ontario as of Monday, Apr. 19, at 12:01 a.m. unless it is for an essential purpose, the province declared Friday.
"Should an individual not have a valid reason to enter Ontario, they will return back. These are tough but necessary measures to help us overcome this health crisis. We all want to get back to normal," Jones said.
The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police said in a statement that police officers will use their discretion in enforcing the measures.
"As we review the new authorities provided today by the Government of Ontario and communicate these authorities to our police officers, Ontario police services remain committed to ensuring their police officers and personnel work in a transparent and accountable manner whenever they interact with Ontarians during these trying times," the statement read.
A spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service said they are 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,” spokesperson Allison Sparkes said.
Toronto Mayor John Tory expressed his concerns over the new police powers, saying in a tweet that he will review the regulations carefully and will discuss them with the medical officer of health and the police chief.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie also said stopping people arbitrarily "is not how we get control of the virus." She added that she will speak to the chief of Peel police and public health to look at how it will be enforced.
Dr. Andrew Boozary, executive director of social medicine at the University Health Network, said policing and penalizing people do not address the root causes of the third wave.
"When we say and talk about systemic discrimination, it's exactly this -- that if people in positions of power were from these communities, they would never think that the crisis response is more policing," Boozary told CP24 Friday evening.
"When you think about marginalized communities already having beyond troublesome histories with policing and law enforcement, that now all of a sudden there is a police carding policy in place for all neighbourhoods and that anyone can be stopped to be asked where you live and what your address is. How does this get at the root cause?"
In response to the announcement, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association slammed the Ford government and said they are "risking a rash of racial profiling and overboard police powers."
"Back-of-the-envelope government responses to pandemic volatility will face constitutional roadblocks. A hodge-podge of pandemic restrictions cannot be policed like this because overzealous enforcers overshoot the mark, based on Canada's 1st Wave experience," executive director Michael Bryant said in a statement.
"Random police stops during COVID are unconstitutional, presuming those outdoors or driving to be guilty -- unlike anti-DUI RIDE program, which are indiscriminate, stopping everyone in a single location, rather than random stops, and are based on heaps of evidence of DUIs."
In a statement, NDP Leader Andrea Horwarth said Ford is playing the “blame game” by focusing on increased enforcement.
“Making this all about punishment and enforcement is the ultimate way for Ford to blame Ontarians,” said Horwath.
Speaking to CP24 Friday evening, Horwath said Friday's measures show Ford continues to ignore the advice of the experts.
"We're in big trouble here. And I think the premier to this very day has once again failed to follow the public health and the science table advice around the measures that need to be taken," she said.
"We need paid sick days. We need paid time off for vaccination. We need those vaccines to go to the hot spots. What we don't need is to further punish the very people that are suffering the most from the coronavirus variants right now."
Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said it's a sad day for the people of Ontario as Ford focused on policing and targeting playgrounds instead of doing what is needed to flatten the curve.
"I just cannot accept our belief that the science table recommended that the single best way to get through the third wave is with carding. The fact that that's going to unfairly target racialized Ontarians is absolutely reprehensible," Del Duca said in an interview with CP24.
"He can no longer lead our province through the rest of this crisis. We need someone to step up."
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said Ford failed to deliver the needs to get Ontario through this third wave.
"It breaks my heart because so many people right now in this province are hurting and so many front-line health-care workers are just maxed out, and they need more help. They need more support."