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A brand new report by scholars from the University of Toronto and the University of Ottawa has revealed that at least 4,575 people have been “ticketed/charged on separate occasions” for alleged coronavirus-related violations throughout Canada. This has resulted in at least $5.8 million in fines to date.
The report states that the majority of these fines have been in Quebec (3,048), followed by Ontario (930), Nova Scotia (516), and Alberta (44). On a civic level, the majority of fines have been in Montreal (1,848), Toronto (594), and Halifax (216).
The report also reveals that “the majority of enforcement actions to date have been for failure to physical distance/comply with minimal gathering rules (4,398).” Getting people to stop being near each other is primarily what the police have been trying to do over these past few months. Of course, police have had to break those rules in order to issue the fines.
Prime Minister Trudeau was asked by Global News about the $5.8 million in fines to Canadians. His response was to say "It's extremely important that Canadians continue to behave as we have, largely, in social distancing and staying home in keeping ourselves... safe from rapid spread of COVID-19."
Trudeau's defence of the fines reveals his authoritarian tendencies. As boys get fines of $700 or for shooting hoops by themselves or families get penalized for visiting their summer cottages, let us not forget that Trudeau recently flouted his own rules by unapologetically taking an Easter vacation at his cottage. Trudeau was not fined for this unnecessary, non-essential excursion.
While Trudeau breaks his own rules and prisoners are being released from their prisons in order to curb the spread, all kinds of otherwise law-abiding citizens have been arrested, cautioned, and fined for being outside of their homes doing entirely legal things, such as exercising, walking around, or being alone or with people of their own households. Much of the $5.8 million issued in fines by local authorities were to those who were found to be violating social distancing.
One woman who had tested positive for COVID-19 was arrested for leaving isolation, a woman in Newfoundland was arrested for not self-quarantining after she returned to the province. Vehicles of non-self-isolators were seized, people who carpooled—an environmentally responsible thing to do prior to pandemic mania—were fined for being too close together.
Homeless people in Toronto were fined for not quarantining, though this would be hard for them to do, since they had nowhere to go. People walking dogs, napping on benches, socially-distanced picnickers, moms pushing baby carriages through parks, house parties attended by seven people, all received tickets for fines.
The hypocrisy on the part of the prime minister here is staggering. Ordinary Canadians are struggling to make rent right now, and they are getting punished financially for their precious moments of leisure or self-care. Staying inside is not a feasible long-term solution. And while the measures, restrictions and orders have flown fast and furious from legislators’ pens to the public, it is the police who are left to their own devices as to how to enforce these new norms. But police don’t have new tools with which to do it, they simply have the old ones, and they are not only ineffective, but authoritarian.
As national and local debts skyrocket, they can’t be mended by fining those very people who find themselves out of work through no fault of their own and told to stay indoors for the good of everyone. Bringing the heavy hand of the law to bear on those citizens who are already experiencing difficulty and hardship does nothing to engender trust of public officials or their regulations.
As the coronavirus crisis drags on, we’ve very quickly become a culture of surveillance, voyeurism, and snitching. In Canada, you’re rewarded for spying and telling on your neighbour and you’re penalized for trying to live your life. No doubt, Trudeau is quite comfortable in such an environment, but the majority of Canadians are not.
Trudeau should apologize to these Canadians—not only for endorsing the fines levied against them so far, but also for being such a raging hypocrite and breaking the rules himself. Perhaps he could add this $5.8 million figure to the bailouts he’s so fond of.