While the government of Ontario announced on April 16th that police would be given new powers to stop and question people in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, police forces and associations across the province have differing responses to the new edict.
“Effective Saturday, April 17, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., police officers and other provincial offences officers will have the authority to require any individual to provide their home address and purpose for not being at their residence. In addition, police officers, special constables and First Nation Constables will have the authority to stop vehicles to inquire about an individual’s reasons for leaving their home. This additional enforcement tool will only be in effect during the Stay-at-Home order and exclusively to enforce the Stay-at-Home order,” states Ontario’s April 16th release.
The Ontario Provincial Police twitter feed posted:
At time of posting, the Ontario Provincial Police Association (which represents OPP members as a labour association) had not issued any statement with regard to the curfew. However, Adrian Wooley of the Peel Regional Police Association posted:
“Common sense is the answer, not threats or scare tactics. Our members will NOT be conducting random vehicle or individual stops for the sole purpose of enforcing the EMCPA. Sorry, Doug… Not on my watch!”
A spokeswoman for Peel Regional Police said the service planned to respond to complaints about violations of the order but would not be stopping drivers and pedestrians to see where they are going.
“As we review the new #COVID19 provincial regulations announced today, please note that we will continue to focus on the 4 Es when it comes to enforcement. We will not be conducting random vehicle or individual stops. For more information, visit: https://bit.ly/3dnV6K4”
“We are reviewing the new provincial #COVID19 regulations. Peterborough Police will continue to be complaints-driven in our response to the increased provincial measures, that means we will not be randomly stopping people. https://www.peterboroughpolice.com/en/news/peterborough-police-response-to-new-provincial-covid-19-regulations.aspx”
“Under the updated orders, police have the authority to stop and make inquiries of individuals who are out in public spaces and not at their home address (pedestrians, motorists, occupants of vehicles, etc.) to assess if the person is in compliance with the Stay-at-Home order. This authority requires such individuals to provide the officer(s) with their home address and purpose for leaving their home.
The OPS will not be conducting random stops. We will be taking a deliberate and careful approach that emphasizes equity, legality, and efficacy in the application of these authorities with the specific and exclusive purpose to support public health measures.”
“On Friday afternoon, the Government of Ontario announced several new measures aimed at curbing the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases.
Included in those announced measures were new authorities for police officers under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA). The Guelph Police Service will review the new regulations once they are released by the Government to determine the most appropriate response in situations where individuals refuse to comply with public health guidelines. However, it is not our intention to conduct random vehicle or person stops.”
“We are reviewing preliminary information received from the province today about the amended ‘stay-at-home’ order, but are still awaiting specific details. When the details become available, we will assess what is asked of police including new enforcement authorities.
Our plan is to continue to engage, explain, educate & enforce in a fair & unbiased manner. We will not be randomly stopping people. Our goal is to put an end to COVID-19 & we ask for the community’s support. We will release a fuller statement tomorrow when details known.”
Toronto Police Service
CBC reports that Toronto Police noted the following in a Statement; however, this statement is not posted to the TPS website:
“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,” police said in a news release on Thursday.
“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.”
In the release, Toronto police Deputy Chief Myron Demkiw said: “Officers can exercise discretion in every situation. But, where there is evidence of non-compliance, officers will be ticketing and issuing summonses for individuals and businesses.”
However, the police said they would like to remind the public that, when officers have what they consider to be ‘reasonable and probable grounds’ to suspect someone has violated an order under provincial legislation, they could ask that person to identify themselves so that police can issue a ticket or summons.
Lawyer Ian Runkle, who specializes in criminal law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, believes that this additional government power will become something “they will push for another time.”
Being stopped by the police “because you ‘maybe’ committed a crime” is a violation of Charter Rights, Runkle explains in a detailed video presentation: