'We are doing this to save lives:' Tory calls for blitz as residents continue to access shuttered sports fields
Cars are seen parked at a closed lot at Sunnyside Beach on Wednesday. Mayor John Tory says that he has asked Police Chief Mark Saunders to authorize a “substantial enforcement blitz” amid reports that many residents are continuing to openly flout the closure of sports fields, running tracks and other community assets.
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Thursday, April 2, 2020 8:17AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, April 3, 2020 7:13PM EDT
Mayor John Tory says that he has asked Police Chief Mark Saunders to authorize a “substantial enforcement blitz” amid reports that many residents are continuing to openly flout the closure of sports fields, running tracks and other community assets.
The province has ordered the closure of all outdoor recreational amenities in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19 but there have been repeated instances of people violating that order, sometimes brazenly.
On Wednesday CP24’s cameras captured dozens of people accessing a running track at North Toronto Collegiate Institute by hopping over a locked gate. There were also hundreds of cars seen parked at Sunnyside Beach, despite the fact that the city had closed all parking lots at parks and beaches as part of an earlier order. City spokesperson Brad Ross later said that it appears as though someone removed the barricades to the parking lot that had been installed just one day prior, effectively ignoring “the very serious efforts being made by all to halt the spread of COVID-19.”
“I really hope in this case that police officers and others will give people a warning and quietly move them along but that they will also write significant numbers of tickets,” a noticeably upset Tory told CP24 on Thursday morning. “All those people at North Toronto Collegiate Institute that climbed over the fence just to jog, they should be given a ticket, a $750 minimum ticket. I am at the point now where I just can’t let this kind of behaviour continue when I have been told very clearly by professional health experts that these kinds of things taken as a whole are putting lives at stake.”
In a statement provided to CP24 on Wednesday, the TDSB Said that it has made it “very clear through every available means” that their playgrounds and sports fields are closed but continues to see people disregarding the order, something that it said is “very concerning.”
Speaking with CP24, Tory said that the city will be installing giant concrete blocks that it previously used to restrict access to illegal cannabis stores at the entrance to the parking lot at Sunnyside Beach and other locations that have been identified as hotspots.
He said that he is also looking into whether parking enforcement officers could be stationed at various locations to remind people about the closures, given that parking enforcement has been somewhat relaxed during the pandemic.
“When it comes to matters of life and death, which this is, to me it would be more important if its legal to have parking enforcement officers doing this kind of work,” he said.
Tory spoke out last weekend about people tearing down tape restricting access to some parks infrastructure, such as outdoor fitness equipment.
While there have been fewer reports of that sort of thing happening, he said that he continues to be “exasperated” by the number of people ignoring an order that is intended to save lives.
City officials have said that they have received 385 formal complaints related to physical distancing since March 24 a. As of yesterday, 14 people had also been issued $750 tickets for non-compliance with the closure of park amenities or non-compliance with a separate order prohibiting gatherings of five or more people.
“You would kind of hope that people would get the message that first and foremost this is going to help save lives,” Tory said. “You never know who the person is that I at the park or at Sunnyside or at the North Toronto Collegiate running track that carries this virus, maybe not even knowing it, and then you take it home to your family. The whole idea here is to stop that from happening.”
Speaking from Queen’s Park on Thursday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford said that he is also disappointed by reports of people continuing to access shuttered recreational amenities.
He said that the last thing he wants to see is “police marching around and telling people to stay at their homes” and is hopeful that Ontarians will heed the warnings of public health officials and stay inside.
“I know people can go a little squirrely staying in a confined area. I understand that, I do but please just do the right thing for your neighbours, for your loved ones. Please don’t think it is not going to happen to me,” he said.