Nearly 200 tickets have been issued over a car rally that violated COVID-19 safety protocols in an Ontario beach town, police said Monday.
Officers had to close the town of Wasaga Beach to non-residents on Saturday after hundreds of car enthusiasts gathered in the community. Mayor Nina Bifolchi welcomed the charges, saying the event put residents in danger.
"Well done on the OPP, it was definitely needed," said Bifolchi. "We're always happy to see people come into our town but this weekend it was not all that respectful."
Ontario Provincial Police said 11 tickets were issued for violating the Reopening Ontario Act, a law which, in part, governs the size of social gatherings in the province.
OPP also said they issued 172 tickets for things like speeding, dangerous driving, not wearing a seatbelt, and careless driving. Fourteen cars were removed from the road for being unlawful or unsafe.
"There were many residents that I heard from that were quite upset and angry at being invaded over the weekend," said Bifolchi. "They couldn't move, they couldn't go to the store, they had added noise from helicopters going over."
Premier Doug Ford rebuked those who participated in the weekend event and said they should consider the implications of their actions.
"I really wish I could get a hold of their grandparents or their parents or a family member," the premier said Monday. "They should go home and tell them how proud they are that they broke the regulations and the guidelines."
Ford said he hoped those who broke COVID-19 safety protocols faced harsh penalties.
"We're going to be on to them," he said at a news conference before the total number of tickets was released by the OPP. "We have the largest fines in the country and I hope every one of them gets a $10,000 fine, I really do."
Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for Simcoe Muskoka Public Health, said that the car rally and events like it could contribute to Ontario's rising numbers of COVID-19 cases.
"Large unauthorized gatherings such as this one have the potential to increase the number of cases that we are seeing, both locally and in the communities from where the attendants originated," said Gardner in a written statement.
Ontario recorded 700 new cases on Monday, most of them in the Greater Toronto Area and Ottawa.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said 60 per cent of the new cases are among people under the age of 40.
OPP Sgt. Jason Folz said Saturday's event is believed to be related to a larger car rally in the United States. Due to the pandemic-related border closure, the Canadian group decided to have a meet-up in Wasaga Beach, he said.
Folz said the town of Wasaga Beach heard of plans for the event and responded by installing some speed bumps in municipal parking lots ahead of time to try and deter dangerous driving.
Police officers from Peel and York regions were also in Wasaga Beach this weekend to help contain the situation, he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2020.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press