Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Ontario drops plan for random police stops

Ford walks back police powers, playground closures | Brockville Recorder and Times - Canadian Press: 

April 18, 2021 - "Ontario reversed course on sweeping new police powers Saturday, just one day after Premier Doug Ford announced the measures that triggered a swift and furious backlash.

"Officers will no longer have the right to stop any pedestrian or driver to ask why they’re out or request their home address, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said in a written statement on Saturday evening. Instead, she said, police will only be able to stop people who they have reason to believe are participating in an 'organized public event or social gathering'....

"Ford tweeted that another of the measures would also be reversed. 'Ontario’s enhanced restrictions were always intended to stop large gatherings where spread can happen,' Ford said. 'Our regulations will be amended to allow playgrounds'.... In a message to The Recorder and Times, Brockville Mayor Jason Baker said the city called in a crew Saturday to close the playgrounds, and he assumed it will reassign crews on Monday to reopen them.

"Civil libertarians and pundits attacked new anti-pandemic restrictions announced Friday by Ford as misguided, saying the added police powers aimed at enforcing stay-at-home orders were overkill....

"Ahead of the reversal, large and small police forces across the province said they had no intention of exercising their newfound powers. Brockville Police Chief Scott Fraser, shortly after a conference call with provincial officials following Ford’s initial announcement Friday, said the city police force would develop a 'common sense approach' and officers clearly wouldn’t be stopping every car they see. And on Saturday, the Gananoque Police Service said it ... 'will not be doing random stops of people or vehicles'.

"Andrew Fletcher, chief of South Simcoe police, said officers would only act on complaints. Police forces from Thunder Bay to Ottawa to Toronto to London and Woodstock expressed similar positions.... 'The HRPS will NOT be randomly stopping vehicles for no reason during the pandemic or afterwards (RIDE being an exception),' Halton police Chief Steve Tanner tweeted before the province walked back the regulations.

"The closing of outdoor spaces, meanwhile, puzzled many public health experts who said the measures didn’t make sense. 'Outdoor activities are vital for mental and physical health, especially with stay-at-home orders,' Dr. Isaac Bogoch, who sits on the province’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, said in a tweet. 'Science is clear: Outdoor COVID transmission is extremely rare.'"

"The new restrictions, including a two-week extension to the province’s stay-at-home order until May 20, were announced amid dire warnings from government scientific advisers that the pandemic was only set to worsen. Other measures include further restrictions on outdoor gatherings and indoor religious services, while recreational facilities such as golf courses are now closed. Ontario intends to shut its borders with Quebec and Manitoba to non-essential travel effective Monday."

Read more: https://www.recorder.ca/news/ford-walks-back-police-powers-playground-closures

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