What to do if your neighbour is violating lockdown rules in Toronto
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As lockdown restrictions in Toronto continue into their eighth-straight week and the entirety of Ontario awaits an announcement from the province with even stricter public health measures, it’s becoming increasingly evident that a significant portion of the population just isn’t following the rules.
Whether it’s attending a party, hosting family members for dinner, or participating in any of the other activities that are currently prohibited in Toronto to curb the spread of COVID-19, many residents are simply less willing to make necessary daily sacrifices than they were during the first lockdown in the spring.
During a press conference Monday afternoon, Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said the majority of the virus spread in the province is coming from long-term care, retirement homes, workplaces, and social gatherings — adding that roughly one third of Ontario’s population is still socializing.
But what happens when you can actually hear a party taking place or see multiple families, unmasked, entering one household with your own eyes? What happens when the people dangerously flouting lockdown restrictions are your neighbours?
“The short answer is the best thing to do is call 311 to report,” a city spokesperson told blogTO by email Monday.
According to a statement from the city’s Municipal Licensing & Standards division, enforcement officers are on patrol across Toronto monitoring compliance with provincial orders and municipal bylaws, and they also respond to complaints made through 311 on a daily basis.
But just because you call 311 doesn’t mean your neighbour will necessarily face real consequences, because enforcing bylaws is a complex process that requires investigation, gathering facts, and applying legal processes.
If a gathering disperses before officers can confirm it took place, for example, there’s no real way to for the city to take enforcement action.
“On a case-by-case basis, the enforcement team works to achieve compliance through education and/or enforcement action,” reads the city’s statement.
“Should an investigation find that a gathering is defiance of Provincial orders, appropriate enforcement action will be taken against organizers and/or attendees.”
Under the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA), any individual caught defying the shutdown rules by hosting an illegal gathering could face a fine between $10,000 and $100,000, plus a potential term of imprisonment of not more than one year.
An individual caught attending a gathering could meanwhile receive a fine ranging from $750 to $100,000, including up to one year in jail.
A director or officer of a corporation, on the other hand, could face a fine of not more than $500,000 and a term of imprisonment of not more than one year, and a corporation could be fined up to $10,000,000.
“The City of Toronto recognizes that the public have been asked to significantly adjust their behaviours as requirements and orders have changed throughout the COVID-19 response,” reads the statement.
“Compliance with requirements, including Province of Ontario emergency orders and City bylaws restricting gathering size and requiring mandatory masks or face coverings and physical distancing, remains crucial to stopping the spread of COVID-19 in our city.”