Police services in Peterborough and the City of Kawartha Lakes are among several in the province that have stated they won’t be conducting random stops of pedestrians or vehicles to enforce Ontario’s stay-at-home order.
On Friday (April 16), the provincial government announced it was giving police officers and other provincial offences officers enhanced authority to require any person to provide their home address and purpose for not being at their residence, and to stop vehicles to inquire about a person’s reasons for leaving their home.
The enhanced authority, which took effect as of Saturday, is only in place during the stay-at-home order and exclusively to enforce the order. People who refuse to provide police with information are subject to a minimum $750 fine.
In justifying the decision against conducting random stops, Peterborough police state “the trust of our communities is of the utmost importance” and “great care will be taken to ensure there is no misuse or perceived misuse of any enforcement measures.”
The Kawartha Lakes Police Service made a similar statement on its Facebook page on Saturday morning.
“We are still reviewing the new legislation, but our enforcement response will remain evidence driven and Kawartha Lakes Police officers will not be arbitrarily stopping pedestrians or motorists,” reads the Facebook post.
On Saturday afternoon, both the Port Hope Police Service and the Cobourg Police Service also stated they would also not randomly stop vehicles or pedestrians.
“Officers will investigate only if they have reasonable grounds to believe the individual is violating the government measures,” reads a statement on the Cobourg Police Service’s Facebook page.
Other police forces in Ontario that have stated they will not be conducting random stops include Ottawa, London, Halton, Waterloo, Guelph, and Sault Ste. Marie.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), which provides policing services for rural communities in the greater Kawarthas region such as Bancroft, issued a media release on Friday stating “Although voluntary compliance is always preferred, under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA), Re-Opening Ontario Act (ROA) and federal Quarantine Act, there are consequences for individuals who choose to defy the emergency orders that are in force.”
The OPP has also stated they will be stopping vehicles at border checkpoints in their jurisdiction, and enforcing the new limits prohibiting the use of outdoor recreational facilities and limiting outside gatherings to household members only.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has called the Ontario government’s Friday announcement of additional police powers a “Black Friday of rights” that creates a potential risk of racial profiling.
#BREAKING It’s a Black Friday of rights slashing by Queen’s Park today, risking a rash of racial profiling and overbroad police powers, presuming everyone outside guilty until proven otherwise. The mobility rights restrictions fail to achieve constitutional proportionality.
— Canadian Civil Liberties Association (@cancivlib) April 16, 2021
This story has been updated with statements from Port Hope Police Service and the Cobourg Police Service.