Toronto police admit stay-at-home order doesn't give them sweeping powers to stop people

·2 min read

Toronto police say the new provincial stay-at-home order does not give them the power to enter homes, pull over vehicles or ask pedestrians why they are outside for the sole purpose of finding out whether they are complying with the order.

Police say they will enforce the order with the help of the city, but they will focus their efforts on complaints about gatherings as well as restaurants and businesses that fail to comply with closure orders and customer limits. They said officers will break up and ticket gatherings of more than five people outdoors.

"No element of any order provides the police with either the power to enter dwellings nor the authority to stop a vehicle for the singular purpose of checking compliance with the stay-at-home order," police said in a news release on Thursday.

"In addition, individuals are not compelled to explain why they are out of their residence, nor is being outside prima facie evidence of a failure to comply with the stay at home order. Workers are also not required to have proof from their employer that they are travelling to or from their workplace."

In the release, Toronto police Deputy Chief Myron Demkiw said: "Officers can exercise discretion in every situation. But, where there is evidence of non-compliance, officers will be ticketing and issuing summonses for individuals and businesses."

However, the police said they would like to remind the public that, when officers have what they consider to be "reasonable and probable grounds" to suspect someone has violated an order under provincial legislation, they could ask that person to identify themselves so that police can issue a ticket or summons.

The police said if a person refuses to identify himself or herself for this purpose, that person could be arrested and charged with obstructing a police officer, which is a criminal charge.

On the issue of skating rinks and toboggan hills, the police said it is continuing to work with the city to determine how the regulations for large gatherings will apply to these winter activities, which provide much needed stress relief for Toronto residents under lockdown.