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police do not have power to stop drivers

Toronto police say they can't stop drivers to enforce stay-at-home order

As part of the stay-at-home order that just went into effect in Ontario, many are wondering if police now have the power to stop residents on the street to verify that they're out of their house for one of the purposes deemed essential by the government.

The answer is, according to new statements from various authorities, no.

The Toronto Police Service issued a news release on the topic on Thursday evening, in which it said that though officers will indeed be enforcing the new order under the provincial Emergency Management and Civil Protection and Reopening Ontario Acts, "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."

Also, residents should not expect to have to explain to law enforcement why they are out of the house, "nor is being outside prima facie evidence of a failure to comply with the stay at home order."

It is an assertion that Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones has likewise reiterated: she told NEWSTALK 1010 this morning that "absent of any other reason why you might be pulled over, then no, people should not expect that they would be pulled over just for the purpose of asking why they're out."

Instead, police will be focusing on monitoring bars, restaurants, retailers and other businesses to ensure they are abiding by forced closure orders and, if still permitted to open, capacity limits.

Premier Doug Ford said that the province will be conducting "inspection blitzes" of big box stores in particular to make sure they are abiding by health and safety regulations.

This means that despite rumours and general confusion around the new restrictions, you should not expect to be stopped and criminalized for simply being off your property — unless you are in a group that quite evidently defies the new outdoor gathering limit of five people, or obviously defying lockdown rules in some other way.

"Officers can exercise discretion in every situation," TPS Deputy Chief Myron Demkiw said in the TPS release. "But, where there is evidence of non-compliance, officers will be ticketing and issuing summonses for individuals and businesses."

Individuals found in violation can be ticketed $750 for failure to comply with an order under the aforementioned provincial acts, or $1,000 for obstructing any person exercising a power or performing a duty in accordance with an order, or served with a summons that could lead to a penalty of up to $100,000 and up to one year in jail.

The fines for a corporation can be as high as $10,000,000.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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