Every day, with increased urgency, the message is hammered home: We must practice social distancing to stem the spread of novel coronavirus, and in cases of recent international travel, self-quarantining for 14 days is imperative.
And yet every day we see and hear about people who aren’t taking those directives seriously enough, putting lives at risk by threatening to overwhelm our already-stretched health care system.
Despite that mounting concern, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not yet enacted the federal Emergencies Act, which would give the government broader powers to limit travel and enforce quarantines.
During Monday morning’s Health Canada update, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland stated: “The Prime Minister has been very clear that the Emergencies Act is a measure of last resort to be used only when all other tools have been exhausted.”
It appears that the PM’s patience is wearing thin. Trudeau expressed his frustrations with Canadians failing to heed the advice of health experts. “Enough is enough,” he said Monday during his daily update from Rideau College, where he remains under self-isolation. “Go home and stay home.”
“This is what we all need to be doing and we’re going to make sure it happens.”
How the government intends to “make sure that happens” isn’t yet clear, but Health Minister Patty Hajdu hinted at further government intervention if necessary.
On Sunday Hajdu warned that “criminal penalties” are being considered and on Monday she described more possible options.
“There are a number of ways that quarantine orders could be enforced,” she said. “Those could include random inspections, hotlines … we are looking at a variety of different measures should we take that step.”
In the meantime, some provinces have already taken matters into their own hands.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil have both given police increased powers to investigate and make potential arrests.
Moe even urged citizens to call police to rat out offenders.
So far, Ontario Premier Doug Ford hasn’t seemed keen to take similar measures, stressing personal responsibility over police enforcement.
On Monday, Ford announced the shutdown of all non-essential services across the province, putting the onus of businesses to adhere to the provincial directive.
“We have to police ourselves .. yes, we will have bylaw enforcement, but we have scarce resources … so when we ask non-essential businesses to close down, we are asking them to close down. If they want to break that there will be consequences, but we don’t want to run it that way.
“We can’t be knocking on every single business in the province checking on them. They have a responsibility.”
We asked the following question on our social media pages:
- When it comes to quarantines and social distancing, do you trust citizens to do the right thing, or should police be enforcing with arrests/fines?
Here’s some of your responses:
I was watching the news with the people coming back from March Break & I just KNEW that nobody they were speaking to was going to self isolate. They were all pretty cavalier & just paying lip service. People need to be fined to do the right thing if they don’t get the message!
— Patti M (@mamapatti55) March 23, 2020
A recommendation or suggestion makes ppl think they have a choice. We need laws, orders, and enforcement.
— IamCanadian (@laurenrachel04) March 23, 2020
I would trust that most would be doing the right thing. I think those in large groups, who continue to ignore the rules should be fined.
— Krista Kent (@kent_krista) March 23, 2020
Enforce it. There are too many examples of people who continue to do the wrong thing, even with all the messaging out there.
— RB (@RBaker08175493) March 23, 2020
There is no argument! The only way to manage the people and make them to follow the rules is FINES.
— Dara Kayani (@daraqadir) March 23, 2020
We need police now. Stop interprovincial travel. Lock down roads except to all non essential work. National quarantine for 40 days. All inbound products must be held in storage room for 40 days so virus will die. After that no new travelers. Enforce touchless focets and doors.
— Nain Martinez (@NainMartinez12) March 23, 2020
Police absolutely need to enforce it. Outside for fresh air only, only with your family. Dogs for quick walks. Groceries and work if you’re an essential service. Otherwise do not go out
— (@x_babybluee_x) March 23, 2020
There is no clear legislative definition of what #Social_Distancing is. Any enforcement attempts will be a Wild West of #Police interpretation of that term leading to unlawful fines and/or arrests and abuse of power#COVIDー19 #COVID19 #ontariolockdown #Canada #SocialDistancing
— Igor Victor Kras(@Igor_Victor_K) March 23, 2020
I don’t trust them to do the right thing. I know of a woman who got home from Florida. Her family had stocked her food, she didn’t like what they got her and because she didn’t feel sick went against quarantine rules and went shopping etc… the woman is a legit boomer in 70’s
— I am waving hi (@JanGroves) March 23, 2020
Anyone who wants to go to stores or even walk download a certificate that cops can demand anytime. And international travelers r registered in database & wont be able 2 get certificate for 14 days. Any 1 with flu like is also on hold for 14 days!! Make it easy and practical!!
— torontodesidiary (@Desidiary2ronto) March 23, 2020
One would hope that people do the right thing, but if social media posts and news footage are any indication, being asked politely isn’t working. Time for stricter enforcement. The sooner we #FlattenTheCurve, the sooner life returns to normal #COVIDCanada
— P (@OnlyDudar) March 23, 2020
Unfortunately a lot of people do not take it seriously. My friend has a friend whose husband had been on vacation overseas and he came back he stayed in quarantine for 24 hours and then went grocery shopping with her so goes to show some people are just plain uncaring
— Janice McGill (@jmcgill_mc) March 23, 2020
Wouldn’t that be martial law?
— RuckMaker (@ruckmaker) March 23, 2020
It’s impossible to contain that many people inside (unless you are in China )or apply the rule of social distancing , majority of people are social animals and it will takes while to change habits in your brain , that’s why the virus is so successful .
— Foxrunner (@runner6565) March 23, 2020
No. My neighbour is an example. Supposed to be self-isolating went yesterday for hair appointment. I have already tweeted – wish there was a "snitch line" followed by a fine!
— jane (@jmcgrath531) March 23, 2020