toronto vaccine passport

Toronto Police say people shouldn't call 911 to report unvaccinated jerks

The Toronto Police Service has once again been forced to clarify that 911 is for emergencies only after Ontario's Minister of Health instructed business owners to use the telephone hotline if they have problems enforcing new vaccine passport regulations.

Minister of Health Christine Elliott, who is also Deputy Premier, unveiled new guidelines on Tuesday detailing how the province's forthcoming proof-of-vaccination program (effective September 22) will work.

With a surprising number of exceptions, patrons will soon need to display both a valid form of ID and a receipt for their second shot of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine to enter several "high risk" indoor settings such as bars, restaurants, gyms, cinemas and casinos across the entirety of Ontario.

It's up to business owners to ensure that staff check all patrons' IDs and immunization certificates, and establishments are required to deny entry to those who cannot produce valid documents. Organizations and individuals can both be fined under the Reopening Ontario Act for failure to comply.

But what happens if someone unvaccinated shows up and causes a scene when they're told they can't come in?

When asked about how the new rules will be enforced, especially at establishments where owners have already openly stated their intentions to flout the rules, Elliott noted on Tuesday that "there will be by law enforcement officers that will be available."

The bylaw officers are expected to proactively monitor businesses and make sure that they conform, Elliott said, but as for individuals? They're expected to comply on their own. And troublesome customers are, apparently, a matter for the cops.

"We're expecting individuals to conform to requirements and, on the other side of it, if there are any businesses that are concerned that when they refuse entry to a restaurant a gym or whatever it happens to be, that if any point they feel threatened we want them to call 9-1-1 as soon as possible to make sure that our police officers can be there to assist," said Elliott.

"We want to make sure that everyone conforms to these rules, but if anyone feels threatened, we do have the facilities available for people to seek help."

It was quickly pointed out by a journalist that such a direction could produce a lot of 911 calls — so many that emergency dispatchers could become overwhelmed by people calling them over unvaccinated individuals, diverting resources from those who legitimately need life-saving assistance from police, fire or paramedics.

"I don't anticipate the demand is going to be huge because we're asking people to be reasonable," said the minister. "We have let people know what the requirements are well in advance of the changes being made."

"People do have until September 22nd to be vaccinated. We are encouraging everyone who is able to be vaccinated to please go out and do so," she continued.

"Again, I don't anticipate there will be huge 9-1-1 calls for that reason; people understand what the rules are and we're simply expecting people to follow them."

Toronto Police aren't quite so optimistic — and, like they and so many other police departments have to do with disturbing regularity — are once asking people to please reserve 911 calls for emergencies only.

"Ontario's Deputy Premier says businesses can call 911 should they have an issue with an unvaccinated individual," tweeted CTV's Colin D'Mello Tuesday afternoon during Elliott's press conference. "Asked about tying up emergency lines, Minister Elliott says she doesn’t anticipate a huge volume of calls regarding non-compliance."

A few hours later, Toronto Police replied to that tweet from their official account.

"The Toronto Police Service would like to remind citizens: 9-1-1 should be for emergencies only," wrote the service in a tweet published just before 7 p.m. on Tuesday. 

"If you are in immediate danger or there is a threat to your safety, call 9-1-1. Non-emergency calls should be directed to 416-808-2222, by-law issues should be reported to 3-1-1."

Translation: If some jerk refuses to show you their vaccine certificate, or an unvaccinated person tries to enter your place of business in defiance of regulations, your first instinct shouldn't be to call 911 — unless a fire is raging or someone is in need of ambulatory care.

Lead photo by

Briana-Lynn Brieiro

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