It would appear some clarification is needed about the enforcement of Ontario’s new stay at home order.
Multiple police forces, including Peel Regional Police and South Simcoe Police, took to social media to say they have been flooded and “overwhelmed” with 9-1-1 calls regarding Ontario’s recently-legislated state of emergency and stay-at-home order.
Ontario’s police chiefs have been told that officers don’t have the authority to stop a vehicle just to check if the person inside is abiding by the new measures.
Additionally, people are not required to tell the officers why they’re outside.
All of this is in a memo to the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP).
Toronto Police have also confirmed in a release that the order does not give officers the ability to enter homes or stop vehicles to check if residents are complying with the regulations.
Our Communicators are being overwhelmed with 911 calls asking about the Stay-at-Home orders.
For your COVID-related questions, please call 311 or click on the link below to assist you. ????https://t.co/eNtEMTzTve
Save 911 for emergencies. pic.twitter.com/dCTRMWl8NP
— Peel Regional Police (@PeelPolice) January 14, 2021
Our 911 Communicators are receiving lots of calls with questions about the Stay-At-Home Order.
Please don't tie up emergency lines with these inquiries.
— South Simcoe Police (@SouthSimcoePS) January 14, 2021
Peel Police Const. Sarah Patten tells 680 NEWS the public appears to be very confused about the new orders but that doesn’t give anyone a reason to call an emergency line.
“I have recently just put out, more of a reminder, of emergency and non-emergency calls that police will be taking and to reiterate to the public that if you have any questions regarding the new legislation to contact 311,” Patten said.
“Our communication centre is definitely extremely busy. So having to pick up constant calls for concerned members of the public, and we appreciate that they do want to follow the rules and want to know what is allowed and not allowed, but it does take time away from actual emergency calls.”
Patten says they want to get to those types of calls faster and issued the reminder in order to better inform people.
South Simcoe Police also published a statement in an attempt to answer questions residents might have with the stay-at-home order now enforced.
“Employers are not required to provide essential workers with a letter to keep in their vehicle to prove they are travelling to work. The legislation [also] does not allow for random vehicle stops to enforce the emergency order,” South Simcoe Police said.
OACP executive director Jeff McGuire says officers still need a reason to stop you, confirming that police will not be stopping people walking on the sidewalk or demanding notes from their doctors or employers.
McGuire says what they do have the power to do is issues fines to stores, such as big-box retailers, or businesses that aren’t following the rules. They can also break up social gatherings of more than five people.
As per Ontario’s website, “A police officer or other provincial offences officer who has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that an individual has committed an offence under section 7.0.11 of the Act may require the individual to provide the officer with the individual’s correct name, date of birth and address.”
The state of emergency will remain in place until February 11, at the earliest.
“We ask that you help us by staying home as much as possible in order to keep our communities safe,” South Simcoe Police added.
“Together we can get through this latest challenge.”