'We have not even seen a draft:' Stay-at-home order takes effect at midnight but Toronto officials say they haven't seen legal regulations
Published Wednesday, January 13, 2021 3:38PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 13, 2021 7:56PM EST
A stay-at-home order will formally take effect at midnight tonight but Toronto officials say they won’t be undertaking any enforcement action until they have had a chance to review the regulations at length.
The Ford government announced the stay-at-home order on Tuesday afternoon, warning of hefty fines for anyone caught venturing outside for a non-essential purpose.
The government released late Wednesday the detailed regulations, which outlined what is allowed under its stay-at-home order, providing enforcement guidance for law enforcement agencies.
However, the delayed publication of the document led to some confusion with city officials saying that they still can’t comment on what enforcement might look like, even though the order now takes effect in a matter of hours.
“I can tell you that we convened our team yesterday afternoon immediately following the announcement by the province and had conversations with a number of our teams today but like we've said until we see the regulations, until they can be accurately and thoroughly assessed by legal services, by our municipal law enforcement teams, by our Toronto Public Health Inspection teams, and of course our Toronto Police Service, we will have no choice but to wait (on enforcement),” Chief Matthew Pegg, who is leading Toronto’s COVID-19 response, said when asked about the order during a briefing on Wednesday afternoon.
On Wednesday evening, the province published further details about its stay-at-home order, requiring residents to only go outside for essential purposes. People whose nature of work requires them to leave their homes or whose employers have determined that in-person attendance is necessary are allowed to leave their residence. Those who work in congregate care settings or those who provide care to someone who needs support are also permitted to go out.
Attending school or post-secondary institution is allowed. Attending, obtaining or providing child care and receiving or providing training or education services are also permitted.
Obtaining government services, social services and supports, mental health supports are also permitted as is obtaining services from a financial institution. That is in addition to being able to go out to buy food, beverages, medicine, personal care items, and other good and services needed in a household.
A person can leave his or her home if their lives are in imminent danger. Those include people experiencing domestic violence and seeking emergency assistance.
Travelling to another home is allowed if that person only intends to be there for less than 24 hours, “is attending for one of the purposes set out” in the order or plans to reside there for two weeks. People who live alone can join another household.
People going to airports, train stations, and bus stations for the purpose of travelling outside the province can leave their homes as are those attending a gathering for a wedding, funeral, or other religious services. Under the lockdown category, wedding and funeral services and other religious ceremonies are limited to 10 people indoors or 10 people outdoors.
In addition to being able to walk an animal outside, obtaining animal food or supplies and veterinary services are allowed.
The order does not apply to those who are homeless.
In an explainer provided to reporters on Wednesday morning, a spokesperson for the premier’s office said that the “Government of Ontario cannot determine what is essential for every person in this province, each with their own unique circumstances and regional considerations.”
The spokesperson also that the government won’t make a determination on what qualifies as an essential item, as doing so would “risk cutting people off from goods that may legitimately be necessary for their health, well-being and safety.”
For his part, Pegg told reporters that officials will work at “war time speed” to review the regulations once they have them in hand but he hinted that there could be a grace period of sorts, in which enforcement isn’t actually taking effect.
“We are sitting right now in a position where we have not even seen a draft of the regulations. What are the authorities? Who holds them? How are they to be exercised? By whom? When? All of those questions and until such time as we see the regulations we won’t know,” he said.
Ford has defended order
Premier Doug Ford did defend the stay-at-home order during a news conference at Queen’s Park earlier on Wednesday, telling reporters that there should be “no confusion.”
Critics, however, have expressed concerns about the fact that the grounds to enforce the order haven’t been clearly laid out.
In an interview with CP24 late Wednesday afternoon, the Fundamental Freedoms Program Director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said that the order shouldn’t mean “that police are authorized just to stop and question anyone that is out of their home” but she said that her organization is still awaiting more information about “what police and the other enforcement officers involved are going to be authorized to do.”
“Primarily we are concerned about the populations that are generally the targets of greater scrutiny by police, which tend to be racialized communities and indigenous communities. We are also concerned obviously about the homeless population. A stay at home order assumes you have a home in which to stay and that is not the case for everyone in our province,” Cara Zwibel said.
Zwibel said that there has been some issues with heavy-handed enforcement of a curfew order in Quebec but she said that she is taking some hope from allusions that Ford has made to not wanting officers approaching people in the streets just to check on what they are doing.
Meanwhile, at Wednesday’s briefing Mayor John Tory said that residents should just stay home as much as possible, regardless of the finer details of order.
“If people would just default always, not just today when its not yet clear but tomorrow and the day after that, to staying home when there is any doubt in their minds that would go a long way to dealing with the COVID situation,” he said, while adding that the city is seeking clarity on a number of issues.
Here is the full Stay at Home Order: