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Ensuring we keep up accountability of those of authority is important 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Ontario government issued a province-wide state of emergency beginning on December 26, 2020 and since then, it has been extended to the lockdown we are currently in —  with no designated end date. 

This means that people are told to not leave their homes unless for essential services, such as grocery shopping, essential work, exercise, etc. But this leads to the question of accountability, specifically, how is such a broad order being enforced? Countries like Italy near the beginning of the pandemic had a legal form for people to book times to leave their homes, but we’re not seeing any of that.

In passing, I’ve heard stories of police stopping and pulling over people in the past week or so and asking what people were doing and asking for proof of employment. In London, Ont., a “suspicious vehicle” was pulled over at a traffic stop and the people were fined “for violating the province’s COVID-19 emergency law on social gatherings.” 

When inquiring how police are going about enforcing the new COVID-19 guidelines and what rights citizens have when they’re leaving their home, Ottawa Police Service stated in an email that they, “will continue to support City of Ottawa By-law in the enforcement of the (COVID) regulations.”

“When we are asked to enforce the regulations, our first role, as a police service, will be to educate; and if the same person is flagrantly breaking a (COVID) regulation — they will be fined”

Additionally, they stated that, “police officers will not be randomly stopping people or vehicles to ask why they are out.” 

This approach is great, as it focuses on education rather than harassment of people. But with the continuing aftermath of Black Lives Matter and other human rights movements, it’s important that we continue to carefully monitor how police are enforcing and approaching COVID-19 regulations.

While ensuring that people are safe and obeying the provincial orders, this leaves room for police to exploit their powers on vulnerable people — something that was also discussed in the London Free Press article above. This especially goes for BIPOC and homeless people, who in Quebec are already being harmed by the COVID-19 regulations in place. The current wording of the lockdown rules are worrisome, as it’s vague and leaves room open for police to exploit the rules.

It’s difficult for people who are in these positions to question police orders, especially when backed by a province wide shutdown. It becomes increasingly important that people know their rights if this does happen. For more information on your rights when dealing with police, you can take a look at this guide.

For the most up to date with COVID-19 restrictions visit the Government of Ontario website.