Toronto police say individuals won’t be ‘compelled to explain why they are out of their residence’ amid new stay-at-home order
Published Thursday, January 14, 2021 2:58PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 14, 2021 6:07PM EST
Residents won’t be forced to explain why they are out of their homes despite a stay-at-home order from the province, Toronto police said as it laid out its enforcement plan, which will mainly focus on restaurants, businesses and large gatherings.
The Toronto Police Service released details of how they will be enforcing the order hours after it took effect. The stay-at-home order, which was announced on Tuesday, requires residents to only go out for essential purposes as the province tries to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“The message from the Toronto Police Service is to stay home and stay safe. This is no longer strictly a public health issue, it is a matter of public safety,” Toronto police Deputy Chief Myron Demkiw said in a statement.
“We each have a personal responsibility to limit our travel to essential reasons only to slow the spread of COVID-19 and try to keep our families and communities safe and support our hospitals and healthcare workers.”
Much of their enforcement will zero in on restaurants and businesses that are not complying with COVID-19 rules, Toronto police said, adding that they will also respond to calls for gatherings. Establishments could be temporarily closed for violating restrictions.
“Officers can exercise discretion in every situation,” Demkiw said. “But, where there is evidence of non-compliance, officers will be ticketing and issuing summonses for individuals and businesses.”
Toronto police noted that the order does not give officers the power to enter residences and stop vehicles just to check if people are complying with the order.
In addition to people not being compelled to explain why they left their homes, workers will not be required to have proof from their employer that they are travelling to or from their workplace, police said, adding that merely being outside does not mean non-compliance.
Toronto police said when an officer finds reasonable and probable grounds that a person violated the order or the Reopening Ontario Act, the person will be asked to provide their identity so that the officer can issue a ticket or summons.
If the person refuses to provide their identity, police said they could be arrested and charged with obstructing a police officer.
In Peel Region, Deputy Chief Marc Andrews said they are currently reviewing the regulations.
“There’s a period where we’ve got to understand the details of the legislation and our powers under that legislation,” Andrews said in an interview with CP24.
“We’re currently in the process of not only sort of understanding legislation ourselves but educating our officers. We’ll be putting out information as the day proceeds to our officers, and that will focus on how we can support public health and enforce when necessary.”
Similar to the Toronto police, Andrews said their enforcement will mainly target large crowds this weekend.
In the meantime, Andrews is asking Peel residents to stop calling 911 to ask about the stay-at-home order. He urged them to contact 311 instead if they want to inquire about the regulations.
This weekend, 50 Ministry of Labour inspectors will join local police and bylaw officers in visiting big-box stores in Toronto, Hamilton, Peel, York and Durham to ensure that workers and patrons are wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and adhering to other safety measures.
Those who are caught not adhering to the rules will be issued fines of $750, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said.
“We know that the majority of workers and workplaces across the province are following the rules. We can’t let our guard down for a single second. Inspectors will inspect places like break rooms and lunchrooms on the rounds to keep workers safe, even off the clock,” McNaughton said.
“Combined with health data inspectors will focus on workplaces, with the greatest risk of spread. That includes manufacturing, warehousing, food processing and workplaces where outbreaks have been reported.”
Toronto Public Health reported 1,035 new cases of COVID-19 and 28 more deaths on Thursday.