Don’t call 9-1-1 unless it’s an emergency
NATION VALLEY — One look at local roadways and sidewalks, and it’s obvious police aren’t stopping vehicles or people to enforce Ontario’s stay-at-home order. There is no quizzing of individuals as to why they’re out of the house. And that’s the intent, as local OPP detachments urge residents to “voluntarily comply” and stay home except for essential reasons.
“Officers will not stop vehicles for the sole purpose of checking compliance under the ROA [Reopening Ontario Act],” Const. Tylor Copeland of the SD&G OPP confirmed for NVN in an email. “Officers are only authorized to stop vehicles where there are reasonable grounds to believe the individual(s) are breaking the law, such as for Highway Traffic Act (HTA) violations. Other instances may be complaint driven where police will follow-up on public reports.”
Echoing the constable, the OPP itself points out that “in the absence of a complaint or other grounds, officers will not arbitrarily stop an individual or a vehicle or enter a dwelling for the singular purpose of checking compliance with the order.” Nor are individuals expected to provide proof of essential work, though they can be asked to identify themselves if officers have reasonable grounds to believe they are violating the Act.
Greater certainty of this hands-off approach comes after police forces had few answers in the days immediately after the Jan. 14 order issued by the Doug Ford government. “The OPP is working with the government and health officials to determine what it all means,” Copeland had told NVN on the day the rule went into effect.
Rather than individuals, the OPP says its officers are on the lookout for non-compliant businesses and restaurants. They’re also ready to respond to public complaints about outdoor gatherings exceeding five people and are empowered to disperse groups and issue tickets. Fines are $750 for failing to comply with an order and/or $1,000 for preventing others (including individuals, employees or other workers) from following an order. Maximum fines for individuals range up $100,000 and $10 million for a corporation. Failure to follow the rules can result in prosecution or jail time, the OPP says.
The stay-at-home order also features numerous exceptions. Travelling for the purpose of going to one’s job, a curbside pickup operation, a takeout restaurant, grocery store or pharmacy is exempt from the rule — as is engaging in recreation and exercise outdoors so long as it doesn’t involve more than five people. Snowmobiling is specifically allowed as well.
“There are several recreational amenities that remain open under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, Ontario Regulation 82/20, including snowmobiling, ice fishing, cross country skiing, ice skating, dogsledding and snow-shoeing,” Copeland pointed out, adding, “All participants should comply with all other health and provincial directives when participating in outdoor activities, such as maintain physical distance. For example, individuals can rent out ice fishing huts if it is being used by members of the same household and if the hut will not be used overnight.”
The OPP also reminds the public that 9-1-1 be used for emergency purposes only. Visit covid-19.ontario.ca/zones-and-