TORONTO – A home stay order went into effect in Ontario on Thursday but the government said police would not have the authority to accidentally stop residents on the street to ensure compliance.
The move, set in an effort to reduce rising COVID-19 rates, means Ontarians will only engage in activities for essential purposes such as health care, nutrition and exercise.
Attorney General Sylvia Jones said the order does not give police the power to enter homes or stop vehicles just to check if the measure is being followed. Residents traveling to work are also not required to have proof from their boss that they are doing so.
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“Being outside alone is not enough evidence of failure to comply with a stay-at-home order,” said spokesman Stephen Warner.
Critics have called the order vague but Prime Minister Doug Ford has urged residents to use “their best judgment” in deciding whether to go abroad.
Some police forces said they were still reviewing the details of the move. The province sent a memo to the police service on the implementation of the order but refused to make it public.
A Peel Regional Police spokeswoman said the service planned to respond to complaints about law enforcement violations but would not stop drivers and pedestrians from seeing where they were going.
“It will be for the most part responding to calls,” const. Sarah Patten said in a statement.
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The Toronto police chief said his force would release more details later and urged residents to do their part and stay home.
The government issued an emergency alert for cell phones, radios and televisions Thursday morning telling residents the order was in effect.
The message urged people to leave their homes for essential purposes only. The province has said, however, there is no definite definition of what is “essential” because everyone has their own unique circumstances.
NDP leader Andrea Horwath called the order a “half-measure” that has confused people.
“Every Ontarian should do his part to stop the spread of COVID, but we can not be successful if the Ford government continues to maintain significant support, and instead only offers a stay-at-home order filled with gaps and contradictory exceptions, “she said.
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In Toronto, Kristen Bones was at an outdoor skating rink to do a midday exercise on the first day of the new order and said she was still not clear about the new move.
“You really do not know what the restrictions are. “It’s kind of confusing for us,” she said.
Bones said the lack of clarity is also difficult for her son, who is an only child, and wants to spend time with his small group of friends.
“My son is a social child, he is an active child and they have taken everything from them,” she said.
Meanwhile, the government said it had planned an inspection crackdown on large retailers over the weekend to make sure they complied with public health rules.
Labor Minister Monte McNaughton said 50 inspectors will visit stores in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and will be allowed, for the first time, to issue tickets to store customers.
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“Inspectors will now also have greater powers,” he said. “We are not trying to punish anyone, but the cases are still growing. We all need to do even better. ”
McNaughton said inspectors will have the power to issue tickets of up to $ 750 to anyone who does not follow public health rules, including store supervisors, workers and customers.
He said they will focus on securing employees and customers wearing masks, maintaining physical distance and following safety instructions.
Inspectors will also have the authority to temporarily close a bar and disperse groups of more than five people, he said.
Ontario reported 3,326 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 62 other virus-related deaths.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said there were 968 new cases in Toronto, 572 in the Peel Region and 357 in the York Region.
– With files by Liam Casey and Holly McKenzie-Sutter
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What competencies does the police have?
A spokesman for the province’s attorney general said the new orders do not give police the power to enter the home to check for compliance, nor can police withdraw drivers or ask pedestrians where they are going.
“Being outside alone is not enough proof of failure to obey the order to stay home,” said Stephen Warner.
“Workers are also not required to have evidence from their employer that they are traveling to or from their place of work.”
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How will the police enforce the new rules?
The Ontario Police Chief Association confirmed that officers will not stop people from just asking about stay-at-home orders.
“Individuals cannot be forced to explain why they are out of their place of residence,” said spokeswoman Joe Couto.
“When people realize that our officers will not look for people outside like me walking my dog, I think they will feel much better. Simply getting in their car and going to the grocery store wondering if they will see the lights in the back windows will not happen. ”
Peel Regional Police said enforcement will be driven by complaints.
“Implementation will be an opportunity when responding to calls related to the order and / or public gatherings,” Konst said. Sarah Patten in an email.
“However, each call for service will be evaluated individually and appropriate action will be taken for each.”
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What will the police not ask for?
Couto said police will not set up checkpoints to check for COVID-related violations.
“One of the main reasons is that we have a lot to do,” Couto said. “Beyond implementing this, we still have to prevent crime, we still have to address crime when it happens. “Our officers are very busy – we are not looking for more business.”
What will the police aim for?
Couto said police will target larger social gatherings.
“We will have a more deliberate effort to find them,” he said.
“What I’m talking about are people gathering, for example, in a parking lot and there are suddenly 20 people standing around the car, our police officers will go and they will just say, ‘Why are we gathering here?’ ‘”
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What are the penalties?
Couto said the new rules allow the officer discretion. They can simply tell a gathering of seven or 10 people to destroy it and go home.
Penalties may be imposed for non-compliance.
The Minor Offenses Act has been updated to include new violations with certain fines:
– Non-compliance with an order made during a declared emergency: $ 750
Obstruction of the person exercising power in accordance with an emergency order: $ 1,000
Obstruction of the person performing a task in accordance with an emergency order: $ 1,000
– Individual who is a director or officer of a corporation: Up to $ 500,000
– Corporations: Up to $ 10,000,000
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© 2021 Canadian Press
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