The Ontario government is backpedaling on its enhanced COVID-19 restrictions that allow police to randomly stop and question people for being outdoors. Under the widely criticized rule, police would have been allowed to stop people without cause. The rule has been changed for the fourth time in as many weeks in response to the province’s changing efforts to tackle the pandemic.
On Friday, Premier Doug Ford announced public health measures that were in accordance with proposals made by Ontario’s Science Table, but angered mayors, police forces, and civil liberties groups. The rule received widespread opposition from the public and 39 out of 45 police agencies in Ontario said they would not abide by the imposition on civil liberties.
Earlier Saturday, the government backtracked on its playground restriction rules following a public backlash.
Stephen Warner, the spokesman for Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said in a statement that the government has “refocused” the powers it provided police forces.
"We have refocused O.Reg 8/21 Enforcement of COVID-19 Measures: If a police officer or other provincial offences officer has reason to suspect that you are participating in an organized public event or social gathering, they may require you to provide information to ensure you are complying with restrictions. Every individual who is required to provide a police officer or other provincial offences officer with information shall promptly comply,” he said.
The previous wording allowed police officers to stop and question Ontarians outdoors without cause or reason.
Under the amended wording, police must have “reason to suspect that an individual may be participating in a gathering that is prohibited” and “may require the individual to provide information for the purpose of determining whether they are in compliance” with the rule.
"As outlined in O.Reg 82/20 Rules for Areas in Stage 1, with limited exceptions, indoor social gatherings / public events are prohibited, and outdoor social gatherings / public events are limited to five (5) people – limited to members of your own household and one other person who lives alone,” he added.
As detailed by Andrew Lawton on Twitter, “police have been nearly unanimous in saying they prefer education to enforcement. This was very much reiterated today, as evidenced by the 39 police departments on this list saying they wouldn't resort to random detention and questioning.”