Police refuse provincial order to make random stops amid COVID-19 surge

Police chief Peter Sloly

OTTAWA – Police in cities across Ontario on Saturday refused to make random stops authorized by the provincial government  which has imposed a stay-at-home order amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, Windsor and at least 19 other municipal police forces said they would not conduct random vehicle or individual stops though they had been given the power to do so.

“The Toronto Police Service will continue to engage, educate and enforce, but we will not be doing random stops of people or cars,” the force said on Twitter. Mayor John Tory supported the move.

Ontario, home to 38 per cent of Canada’s population, had 4,362 new infections on Saturday after a record of 4,812 cases on Friday, and projections indicate the virus could spike to 10,000 per day in June without more strict health restrictions.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, increasingly under fire for mishandling the province’s pandemic response,  last Friday gave police the authority to stop anyone driving or walking to ask them to explain their reason for leaving home, and ticket them if in breach of the rules.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says it’s time to fight to save Ontario from COVID-19 by stopping Doug Ford’s plan for a police state instead of public health action.

“Our hospitals and intensive care units are overun.People are dying and Doug Ford chose carding, not paid sick days. He chose a police state instead of vaccines for essential workers. He’s shutting down playgrounds instead of shutting down non-essential warehouses and factories,” said Horwath.

“We need public health action. Not a police state.”

“I am thinking of the people laying in crowded hospital hallways, struggling to breathe. I’m listening to Black, Indigenous and racialized people, who know carding will target them, because it always has. I am listening to businesses that will be destroyed while Ford allows the virus to rage on. I hear you. I see you. And together, we’ll fight for you,” said Horwath.

Steven Del Duca, the opposition Liberal Party leader in Ontario, said Ford was imposing “martial law” and that the move was a “dangerous attack on racialized Ontarians” who would be unfairly targeted.

The expanded police powers risk causing “a rash of racial profiling and overbroad police powers, presuming everyone outside guilty until proven otherwise,” Canada’s Civil Liberties Association said.