police traffic stop

Hub Staff

Police forces across the province are rebuking the amended Provincial Stay at Home Order announced Friday.

While racialized communities aren't necessarily being put at ease with the declarations, the number of police organizations making public statements continues to grow.

On April 16, Ontario Premier Doug Ford strengthened its enforcement of the Stay at Home Order by providing police officers enhanced authority to stop individuals at random, question their reasons for leaving home and require they provide their home address. 

Many critics expressed concerns that it would further target marginalized communities who are already not only disproportionately surveilled but also feeling the brunt of the pandemic's adverse effects.

Provincial opposition leaders Andrea Horwath, Mike Schreiner and Steven Del Duca have all condemned the move and Schreiner and Del Duca have gone so far as to demand Ford repeal the amendment.

On Saturday morning, the London Police Services Board issued a statement expressing "serious concerns regarding the potential adverse impact and constitutionality" of the amendment.

Also Saturday, Toronto Police tweeted that they will not be doing random stops of people or cars.

Niagara Regional Police Service echoed the sentiments of Toronto Police and Ottawa Police Service said they are "very mindful of the perceptions of the broader public as well as within our more marginalized, racialized and/or Indigenous/Aboriginal/Inuit peoples."

The list continues to grow with Peel, Halton, Hamilton, Barrie, Waterloo, Guelph, Windsor, Sudbury and the Kawarthas all signing on, and later Saturday Saugeen Shores Police Service said that while the amended Order gives police additional powers to "assess compliance and implement a new level of enforcement" they will not be doing random checks of individuals and will continue to conduct "evidence based investigations."

"Saugeen Shores Police Service will maintain a complaint driven model of enforcement and compliance with the Provincial Stay-at-Home Order," said Chief Kevin Zettel, in a Town of Saugeen Shores media release, adding "our officers will continue to engage, explain, educate, and then enforce."

In contrast, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) said in a media release April 16 that under the updated orders, "police have the authority to ask individuals and motorists who are not at home their purpose for leaving home and to provide their home address" and went on to urge "everyone to comply with all restrictions."

"Although voluntary compliance is always preferred, under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA), Re-Opening Ontario Act (ROA) and federal Quarantine Act, there are consequences for individuals who choose to defy the emergency orders," the release continued. "The OPP will be informing the public of charges laid each day on its social media accounts. The public is reminded that individuals who fail to comply with the restrictions can be issued a minimum fine of $750."

In a second media release, April 18, the OPP said that officers will enforce the Stay-at-Home Order "by focusing on non-compliance in businesses and restaurants, complaints from the public and unlawful public gatherings."

The release went on to say that officers "will not arbitrarily stop an individual or a vehicle, or enter a dwelling for the singular purpose of checking compliance with the order. Individuals are not expected to provide proof of essential work. Officers who believe an individual may be participating in a gathering that is prohibited may require the individual to provide information to determine whether or not they are in compliance."