indoor gatherings toronto

Toronto police laid 25 charges related to large gatherings this weekend

On the same day that Premier Doug Ford announced that a province-wide shutdown will be implemented after Christmas to help curb the spread of COVID-19, city officials revealed that many of the city's residents continue to flout the lockdown rules already in place in Toronto.

During the city's press briefing Monday afternoon, General Manager of the Office of Emergency Management and Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg provided his weekly enforcement update, and he said officers laid a total of 25 charges as a result of complaints about large gatherings over the weekend.

Pegg said these gatherings were held at a variety of venues, including a bar and lounge, an industrial unit and on private property. 

"Why did people have the big social gatherings the police had to visit over the weekend?" asked a seemingly exasperated Mayor John Tory during the presser.

"Why did they have to have those social gatherings and why did people attend them in fairly large numbers? We all need to commit ourselves to follow these rules and guidelines now."

During his update, Pegg said police also responded to a number of protests and rallies this past weekend, including a rally in downtown Toronto, a pop-up protest that overtook an intersection in 14 Division, a protest in Yonge and Dundas Square, a protest at Queen's Park, and an anti-mask Santa Claus-themed rally downtown

"The investigation into these protests and rallies remains ongoing by police," he said, adding that three charges have been laid against the organizers of these protests and rallies thus far.

Pegg then went on to outline a number of compliance issues with city skating rinks, 54 of which opened with new operational safety guidelines on Nov. 24.

"Attempting to access and/or use outdoor rinks outside normal operating hours is both illegal and dangerous. Generally, usage has been in compliance with COVID-19 guidelines and requirements," he said.

"However, this weekend we experienced and responded to a number of issues that included unauthorized after-hours usage, shinny hockey play, exceeding the capacity limits on the ice, open alcohol, groups loitering off the ice, insufficient physical distancing, not wearing masks, skaters not wanting to register or provide the required contact tracing information, and damage to property when accessing ice after hours," he continued.

"I'm very disappointed to report that a number of city staff were subjected to threatening behaviour when asking patrons to comply with guidelines and when attempting to restrict access to ice during after-hours periods."

Pegg said Toronto police officers had to assist with issues at six different outdoor rinks over the weekend, and they provided enhanced patrols at another seven.

During his remarks, Mayor Tory highlighted one particular incident in which a group of adults attempted to play shinny hockey (which is currently banned) at a city rink late at night.

"For the life of me, I cannot understand why a group of grown adults would, for example, completely ignore the very reasonable rules and hours of operation of our rinks, and show up late at night to play shinny hockey when the shinny hockey itself is not permitted under the rules, and when the opening closing hours of these rinks are very reasonable, the same as they were in past years, and are meant to give the staff a break and to make sure that things can be properly supervised at a time when we have some rules designed to protect the health of those very same people," he said. 

"I can't understand why those basic rules can't be followed and yet we have adults showing up to do that late at night and then in some cases, giving the staff a very hard time when they're reminded of these rules."

Fortunately, Pegg said enforcement officers also inspected a total of 216 bars and restaurants over the weekend, and only two charges were laid as a result of a 99 per cent compliance rate.

He added that inspections of shopping malls thankfully revealed no violations.

"I want to thank the vast majority of residents and businesses who continue to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our city," he said.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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