Ontario police charge 5 people who don't live together for hanging out in parking lot
It's been nearly six weeks now since Ontario's latest provincewide shutdown came into effect, followed by a stay-at-home order that amounted to the near-complete ban of indoor and outdoor social gatherings alike.
With warmer temperatures now taking hold and an end to the lockdown in sight, it's safe to say that Ontario residents are getting a bit restless — and perhaps even a bit bold when it comes to seeing friends they don't live with.
People gathered by the thousands this weekend in Toronto for protests and park hangs with relatively few consequences, despite the recent rollout of dedicated enforcement teams and a widespread police presence at several major outdoor events.
But Toronto is not Timmins, Ontario. Timmins is next-level strict.
Police in the small northeastern city of just over 40,000 announced today that five more people had been charged this week for "breaching provisions of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act" after they were caught gathering in a parking lot.
Timmins Police say they were responding to a call "from a concerned citizen" on the evening of Monday, May 17, when they found two women and three men in the parking lot outside a grocery store on Algonquin Boulevard.
"Responding Timmins Police Service officers took note of a group of people congregating in and around a number of parked cars and without adhering to social distancing requirements," reads a statement issued by the service on Wednesday.
"A number of persons who had assembled at this location were interviewed by the officers and were found to be socializing while in conflict with the stay at home order currently in place."
Upon determing that none of the five individuals lived together, police determined that each of them was "in breach of COVID protocols defined under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA)."
Three males aged 20, 23 and 30, as well as two females aged 20 and 24, were charged under the Reopening Ontario Act and fined $880 each.
"This marks yet another instance where the Timmins Police Service has found it necessary to lay formal charges as the offence in question was an overt and intentional violation of the applicable statute," wrote police.
"As stated in previous public notices, the educational approach and generous use of discretion originally adopted by the Timmins Police has come to an end, especially in light of recent distressing numbers related to Covid positivity in our area."
This is the third headline-making bust for police in Timmins over the past month or so: On April 17, five Ontario residents from different households were charged in Timmins for riding in a car together.
More recently, four people were pulled over in nearby Kirkland Lake and charged similarly under the Reopening Ontario Act for violating gathering rules.
"The Timmins Police will continue to maintain a firm and formal approach when confronting such violations as it is deemed to be necessary and appropriate to do so," wrote the service on Wednesday in their release.
Police say that the move is meant to "better protect people from their own lack of good judgement and the indulgence in unsafe behaviours" as the COVID pandemic persists.
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