Mayor John Tory apologizes for 'personal behaviour' at Toronto park where thousands gathered

Following criticism from the public, Toronto Mayor John Tory has apologized for his “personal behaviour” at Trinity Bellwoods Park, where thousands of people gathered on Saturday.

“I fully intended to properly physically distance but it was very difficult to do,” said Tory in a statement. “I wore a mask into the park but I failed to use it properly, another thing I'm disappointed about.

“These were mistakes that I made and as a leader in this city, I know that I must set a better example going forward.”

The mayor explained that his visit to the popular downtown park was “to determine why things were the way they were,” as large groups of people were seen disobeying social distancing requirements.

Throughout the past week, as Toronto and Ontario both saw concerning COVID-19 trends, Tory reinforced the importance of maintaining a two-metre distance. When that’s not possible, he said people should wear a face mask or covering, to limit the chance of spreading COVID-19 to others.

In Toronto, there’s also an “emergency order” and bylaw in place: people from separate households are not allowed to be within two metres of one another, and can be fined up to $5,000 upon conviction.

On Saturday, Tory said that the gathering at Trinity Bellwoods Park was “unfortunate and extremely disappointing” and “could contribute to the kind of setback we are trying hard to avoid.”

The event garnered four tickets that were issued to visitors of Trinity Bellwoods for allegedly disobeying the physical distancing bylaw and provincial orders.

According to CP24, when 10,000-people were at the park, 10 police and bylaw officers were on scene. They were reportedly afraid of risking their own safety if they were to enter the crowd, which they deemed “impossible to patrol.”

Toronto police chief Mark Saunders said that there were several tickets issued because people were also caught defecating and urinating in backyards and driverways of nearby homes.

"When you've got an elderly woman opening the door and seeing someone defecating, it is quite bothersome," Saunders said. “If you’re going to be bringing beer here and then utilize someone else’s house as a toilet, then there’s a bit of self entitlement there.”

The City of Toronto is now working with Toronto Public Health to reopen washrooms in public parks to ensure that people can stay safe and healthy.

Premier Doug Ford also addressed the large gathering, after videos and photos surfaced on Saturday of large groups of people socializing and enjoying the sunshine.

“I thought it was a rock concert at the beginning when I went out there. I was absolutely shocked,” said Ford on Sunday. “It might not even be about the young people. They can go home and give it to their parents or their grandparents, because there’s still a deadly virus among us. If we allow it ... it will spread like wildfire.”

This past week, the city reopened amenities in hundreds of parks. But Toronto’s “emergency order” (originally issued in early April) is still in place, and for good reason heading into the weekend.

As of Friday evening, 1,883 of the province’s 3,846 active cases are found in the city’s public health region. Toronto also recently recorded 220 of the province’s 412 new cases, while consistent community spread has been reported throughout the past few months of the pandemic in Ontario’s most populous area.

Despite the province being in the first phase of its reopening process, Ford has said that he and health officials are seeing “concerning” trends as its daily cases and testing outputs continue to head in worrisome directions. If they continue, Ford said he won’t hesitate to roll back his reopening plans.

In the entire province, people from different households are still not allowed to gather in groups of five or more. But that didn’t seem to stop thousands of people Saturday from potentially contributing to the spread of a virus that’s already killed at least 2,048 people in Ontario, so far.

Joe Cressy, a Spadina-Fort York city councillor and chair of the Toronto Board of Health, wasn’t too impressed by the showing Saturday.

"You're putting yourself, your parents, your grandparents, and your friends at risk. So, grow up," said Cressy to CP24.

A City of Toronto statement said the gathering threatens “to undo the difficult and challenging work residents of this city have done over the last 10 weeks in their collective effort to beat COVID-19.”

Tory warned people that on Sunday they can expect an increase in bylaw officers and Toronto police who will be enforcing social distancing rules. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa also took to Twitter to remind people to maintain a distance, especially now that the city is seeing an increase in cases.

Others who have decided to heed the advice of public health officials, also aren’t too pleased with what they’re seeing.

Some have made jokes in these uncertain times, but others have also questioned what role police should play as people disobey the emergency order put in place by the City of Toronto.

What do you think of the way some Canadians are behaving, despite emergency orders? What should provinces do? Vote in the poll above and tell us what you think in the comments.