New Police Powers to Enforce COVID-19 Measures

By Ryan Stubbs, Associate Lawyer 

*Nothing in this article is to be taken as legal advice or should be used as a substitute for advice from a legal practitioner. This article is for informational purposes only. 

On April 16, 2021, the Ontario government announced that it was strengthening enforcement of the province's Stay-at-Home order while imposing new travel restrictions and further strengthening public health measures. In order to “increase public compliance with the Stay-at-Home order and stop the spread of COVID-19”, the government made certain amendments to the active emergency order that allegedly provide police officers and other provincial offences officers enhanced authority to support the enforcement of Ontario's Stay-at-Home order.

The official Ontario government press release reads: 

“Effective Saturday, April 17, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., police officers and other provincial offences officers will have the authority to require any individual to provide their home address and purpose for not being at their residence. In addition, police officers, special constables and First Nation Constables will have the authority to stop vehicles to inquire about an individual's reasons for leaving their home. This additional enforcement tool will only be in effect during the Stay-at-Home order and exclusively to enforce the Stay-at-Home order.”

Upon reviewing amendments to the law that were actually made by the Ontario government, the above new powers of the police do not appear to be rooted in law at all. Ontario Regulation 8/21 Enforcement of COVID-19 Measures (“O.Reg 8/21”) made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.9 contains the police powers to enforce COVID-19 measures and the government’s Stay-at-Home order. Section 2 of O.Reg 8/21 reads as follows: 

Requirement to identify

2.   (1) A police officer or other provincial offences officer may require an individual to provide the officer with the individual’s correct name, date of birth and address if the officer has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the individual has committed,

(a) an offence under section 7.0.11 of the Act; or

(b) an offence under subsection 100 (1) of the Health Protection and Promotion Act for failing to comply with an order made in respect of COVID-19 under section 22 of that Act.

(2) Every individual who is required under subsection (1) to provide a police officer or other provincial offences officer with their correct name, date of birth and address shall promptly comply. (emphasis added)

O.Reg 8/21 does not mention anywhere that police officers or provincial offences officers have the authority to require individuals to provide the purpose for not being at their residence. Furthermore, O.Reg 8/21 does not provide that police officers or provincial offences officers have the authority to stop vehicles to inquire about an individual's reasons for leaving their home. O.Reg 8/21 also provides that an officer must have “reasonable and probable grounds” to suspect that an individual has committed an offence before providing the officer with the individual’s correct name, date of birth and address. The official press release by the Ontario government has thus mischaracterized the actual state of the new enforcement provisions and the powers of police to stop and question individuals. 

The new amendments to O.Reg 8/21 only give police officers or provincial offences officers to ask an individual for their name, date of birth and address if the officer has reasonable and probable grounds that an offence has been committed under the Stay-at-Home order. It does not give the police the power to randomly stop any individual or vehicle and it does not give police the power to require that an individual provide the purpose for not being at their residence. 

Have the police infringed your rights? 

You have certain rights enshrined by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms when interacting with police. If you believe your rights have been violated, the lawyers at Chand Snider LLP can help. At Chand Snider LLP our lawyers have handled countless Charter challenges and we know exactly what to look for to ensure that your rights are protected. When facing any criminal or provincial charges, choosing the right lawyer can be the difference between a conviction and an acquittal. Contact us today to protect your rights. 


 

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