Enforcement of Physical Distancing – Make the Right Call
In order to effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, last week the Province of Ontario closed all non-essential businesses and limited gatherings to less than 5 people. The City of Ottawa also closed all parks, play structures, skateboard parks and off-leash dog enclosures. This means that residents are prohibited from using any facilities in parks and public spaces, such as play structures, benches, adult fitness centres, sports fields and tennis courts. These joint measures were taken to limit the spread of COVID-19 and support physical distancing amongst Ontarians. For the many residents who are taking the need for social distancing seriously and following these new measures, I want to thank you and your family for taking the necessary steps to physically distance yourselves and doing your part in helping to flatten the curve.
When it comes to the enforcement of these news measures, to date, By-law officers and the Ottawa Police have tried taking an educational approach to enforcement for those not following the new restrictions. Those in violation of the rules were advised and provided with a warning. Unfortunately, some are still not taking these closures seriously and have ignored warnings from By-law and the Police.
In response to the continued use of public parks throughout the City of Ottawa, By-law officers will now be issuing fines for breaking the Ontario Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. To those that are willfully breaking the law, these fines may be upwards of $880 to $10,000 for individuals; $500,000 for corporate directors and $10 million for corporations. As well, fines of $1130 can be given to individuals for obstructing a By-law officer from enforcing the prohibitions.
The Ontario Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act prohibits:
- gatherings of people;
- restaurants offering customers dine-in options;
- businesses remaining open without an exemption and;
- gatherings in city parks, including the use of play structures and sports fields.
If you see residents playing on a soccer field or on a play structure in a park, regardless of whether this is city property or private property, you can report this to 3-1-1. If you see restaurants offering dine-in services to customers, call 3-1-1. Below is a chart that further explains which authorities have oversight of the various possible violations. We must all do our part to “flatten the curve” and take physical distancing seriously. If you see individuals or groups breaking the Ontario Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, please reach out to the appropriate authorities.
|Enforcement Chart Scenario||Enforcement Officials||Notes|
|Gatherings in City of Ottawa Parks||By-law
|The City has closed all parks and is prohibiting people from using any facilities in parks, such as play structures, benches, and adult fitness centres. Sports fields and tennis courts are also closed. Residents are permitted to walk through parks. Those caught using parks can be fined up to $10,000.|
|Restaurants offering dine-in / seat-in options||By-law
|By-law has the authority to issue fines for up to $10 million.|
|By-Law follows up with businesses that are not exempt to ensure compliance.|
|Gatherings of people||By-law
|The Provincial Government has prohibited gatherings. Funerals are exempt from this prohibition. By-law will respond.|
|Positive COVID-19 Cases not following quarantine orders||Ottawa Police
|The Ottawa Police Service responds to cases where individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 are not following quarantine orders.|
|Returning travelers who are not complying with 14-day self-isolation||Ottawa Police
|The Ottawa Police Service is responsible for enforcing the Quarantine Act.|
|NCC property||National Capital Commission
|The NCC has closed all urban parks in Ottawa until further notice. Benches, gazebos, picnic areas, outdoor community gardens, and off-leash areas will not be accessible for public use. Residents are permitted to walk through.|
The Role of By-law
By-law and Regulatory Services (BLRS) enforce any gatherings in City of Ottawa parks, including the use of play structures, and will enforce the law with any restaurants that are offering dine-in options to its customers. Residents should call 3-1-1 if they have concerns.
The Role of the Ottawa Police
Ottawa Police Service are responsible for the enforcement of requests regarding the Quarantine Act. Ottawa Police Services will continue investigating other matters, such as gatherings of people and other business that are open without an exemption. Residents can call 613-236-1222 to report any such gathering or incident.