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Ontario police services have ‘way more questions than we have answers’ on enforcing new stay-at-home order


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Ontario police services have ‘way more questions than we have answers’ on enforcing new stay-at-home order

Ontario premier Doug Ford did not institute a province-wide curfew as part of the stay-at-home order announced Tuesday, wanting to avoid a “police state” where officers are “chasing you down the street” for leaving the house at night.

But the fine details of what officers will be doing remains unclear as Ontario is set to enact a stay-at-home order.

Taking effect Thursday, the new measures allow people to leave the house only for permitted activities, including to go to the grocery store or pharmacy, to attend a health care appointment, to get exercise outside or to attend work.

Under the emergency declaration, all enforcement and provincial offences officers — including local police forces, the OPP, bylaw officers and provincial workplace inspectors — can issue tickets to anyone not complying with the stay-at-home order.

Ford said increased enforcement powers include the ability “to disperse people and to issue tickets to bad actors.”

“Bad actors who are caught, they will get fined,” Ford said.

But it’s not clear whether officers will be expected to stop and ask people where they are going, then ticket them if they’re not on a permitted trip.

A spokesperson for the Solicitor General’s office did not directly answer this question by deadline on Tuesday, saying only that the “fines for violating the stay-at-home order is the same as any other order.”

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“There’s way more questions that we have answers at this time,” said Joe Couto, spokesperson for the Ontario Association of Chief of Police.

“And so we’re really in a waiting period so that we can have some specifics in terms of what does this mean for enforcement.”

Couto said the OACP has asked the province for some guidance in terms of what’s expected of front-line police officers, and is hoping to get more specifics from the government Wednesday. Couto said he was getting a lot of inquiries from police services because “they want to do what is expected of them.”

Asked what Toronto police will be doing to enforce the emergency measures, a spokesperson said the service “will be taking direction from the province and will continue to carry out enforcement in partnership with the City.”

According to a provincial spokesperson, officers can ticket anyone not following masking and distancing requirements while inside a business or organization, and can force people to disperse if they are not complying with the gathering limits; under the new order, outdoor gatherings are restricted to a limit of five people.

According to a spokesperson for Ontario’s Solicitor General, fines can include $750 for offences defined as “failing to comply with an order.”

Under the Reopening Ontario Act, hosts or organizers of parties that exceed limits on gatherings could face penalties as high as $10,000 or more. Corporations could face a fine as high as $10,000,000, according to a government spokesperson.

Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing for the Star. Reach her by email at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis

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