The Toronto Police Service (TPS) announced Thursday that the new Ontario stay-at-home order does not provide them the power to enter homes, stop drivers, or ask people to explain why they are outside.
Under the stay-at-home order, Ontarians are to remain in their homes except for “essential” reasons including going for “groceries, medical, pharmacy, exercise or for work that cannot be done remotely,” but it does not provide sweeping power to the police.
“No element of any order provides the police with either the power to enter dwellings nor the authority to stop a vehicle for the singular purpose of checking compliance with the Stay-At-Home order,” the TPS said in a statement.
“In addition, individuals are not compelled to explain why they are out of their residence, nor is being outside prima facie evidence of a failure to comply with the stay at home order. Workers are also not required to have proof from their employer that they are travelling to or from their workplace”
Instead, the police will enforce the order on restaurants and businesses that do not comply with the province’s “closure orders and/or customer limits,” as well as responding to complaint calls of more than five people gathering outdoors, which the TPS says their officers have the authority to disperse and ticket those involved.
Fines for individuals is set at $750 under the offence category and is described as failure “to comply with an order made during a declared emergency.”
The TPS’s announcement comes a day after the provincial government officially enacted the stay-at-home order which went into effect on Jan. 14 at 12.01 a.m., under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA), announced by Premier Doug Ford Wednesday.
The EMCPA grants Ford the authority to declare that an emergency exists in Ontario should he consider it so, which in this case is the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which emerged from China in 2019 before spreading globally.
Despite the limitations to how police can enforce the order, TPS deputy chief Myron Demkiw said that their “officers can exercise discretion in every situation,” and “where there is evidence of non-compliance, officers will be ticketing and issuing summonses for individuals and businesses.”
Moreover, the police added that when their officers have “reasonable and probable grounds” to suspect someone has violated one of the orders under the EMCPA and Reopening Ontario Act—a legislation that gives the Ontario government the power to continue implementing emergency orders related to COVID-19 even after the provincial declaration of emergency has ended—they may ask the person to identify themselves in order to issue a ticket or summons.
“If the person refuses to identify themselves for this purpose, they can be arrested and charged with obstructing a police officer,” TPS said.
In regards to skating rinks and toboggan hills, the TPS said it would continue to work with the city and the city’s public health agency to determine how the regulations for large gatherings should be applied.