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Punishments for breaking public health orders in Canada

Punishments differ between provinces and municipalities, with some threatening both fines and jail time depending on the circumstances.

As coronavirus continues to spread in Canada, governments are taking measures to crack down on those who do not obey public health orders.

Federal, provincial and municipal governments have made it clear that large gatherings and not following self-isolation orders will not be tolerated.

Punishments differ between provinces and municipalities, with some threatening both fines and jail time depending on the circumstances. 

Canada

Harsh fines have been put in place for those who fail to self-isolate. Travellers entering Canada will be told by CBSA that they must begin a 14-day self-isolation immediately upon entering Canada.

The government of Canada has enacted The Quarantine Act. Failure to comply with self-isolation orders can result in a fine of up to $750,000 and six months in jail.

Anyone who fails to self-isolate and puts others at risk or results in spreading coronavirus could face a fine of up to $1 million, up to three years in jail, or both.

British Columbia

British Columbia introduced strict penalties for those breaking public health orders. If violators are caught breaking the province’s public health orders surrounding self-isolation and large groups, penalties can result in a fine of up to $25,000 and possible jail time.

Reselling essential goods like medical equipment and cleaning products has also been made illegal, with the punishment being a fine of up to $10,000, one year in jail, or both.

Businesses in the City of Vancouver face fines of up to $50,000 for failing to comply with public health orders. The city has also introduced fines of $1,000 for those practicing the required 2 metre physical distancing in public.

Alberta

In Alberta both police and peace officers have been empowered to enforce public health orders. Among some of the new public health orders in the province include a ban on public gatherings larger than 50 people and a mandatory 14 day self-isolation period for international travellers. 

Failure to follow the new orders can result in a $1,000 fine.

Saskatchewan

Last week Saskatchewan introduced fines for individuals who do not self-isolate after travelling outside of the province. Those who are caught not following the 14 day self-isolation order will now receive a fine of $2,000.

Public or private gatherings of more than 10 people have also been banned.

Manitoba

Manitoba introduced a ban on all gatherings of over 10 people. Manitobans who have traveled abroad are also required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in province. Failure to comply with these new orders can result in a $50,000 fine or up to six months in jail.

Corporations that violate the new orders may face fines of up to $500,000.

Ontario

Ontario has among some of Canada’s toughest punishments for failing to comply with public health orders. Under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, the province can issue orders, which are enforceable by police:

  • Failing to comply with public health orders limiting groups over 5 people: $750 fine.
  • Not identifying oneself to an officer when caught violating emergency orders: $750 fine.
  • Obstructing officers that are enforcing public health orders: $1,000 fine.
  • Businesses that fail to comply with orders to shut down: $500,000 fine.
  • Failing to follow the 14 day self-isolation order after travelling abroad: maximum fine of $750,000 and/or 6 months in prison.
  • Not following self-isolation in a way that “wilfully or recklessly” puts someone else at risk: $1 million and/or up to three years in prison.

On Saturday Ontario started to enforce new rules preventing price gouging of certain products. Individuals caught price gouging can now face fines of up to $100,000. Corporations caught price gouging face fines of up to $1 million.

The City of Brampton has created a bylaw which could fine people who do not maintain the required 2 meter physical distance on city property. Fines can range from a few hundred dollars to $100,000. A similar bylaw is currently being considered by Toronto City Council.

Quebec

Quebecers are required to self-isolate for 14 days after travelling abroad or being diagnosed with coronavirus. Police in Quebec will arrest individuals who do not comply with self-isolation orders.

Residents of Montreal who do not keep a 2-metre distance from others may face fines of up to $1,000. Fines for COVID-19 carriers not complying with self-isolation orders could be fined $1,000 to $6,000, or face jail time.

On Saturday Quebec Police installed checkpoints on highways leading to eight regions: Bas–Saint-Laurent, Abitibi–Témiscamingue, Côte-Nord, Nord-du-Québec, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Nunavik and Terres-Cries-de-la-Baie-James. Police will only be allowing those travelling for essential services and emergencies to keep on the road. Similar checkpoints have also been established on the roads connecting Gatineau with Ottawa.

New Brunswick

Under public health orders in New Brunswick, gatherings of more than 10 people are banned and anyone who has travelled abroad is required to self-isolate upon arrival. Failure to follow public health orders can result in a fine of up to $10,000. On Tuesday Premier Blaine Higgs warned that jail time or confinement may be used to punish those who ignore emergency orders in the future.

Nova Scotia

Last week Nova Scotia gave police officers the power to enforce the province’s Health Protection Act. The Act bans gatherings of more than five people and enforces a mandatory 14 day self-isolation period for all people who have travelled abroad. Punishments for not following public health orders include fines of up to $1,000 for individuals and $7,500 for business owners. Multiple fines can also be issued if disobedience continues.

All provincial parks and beaches are closed until further notice. Individuals caught trespassing can receive fines ranging from $500 to $10,000.

Prince Edward Island

Islanders who have travelled abroad are required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Violating self-isolation orders will result in a $1,000 fine for the first offence, $2,000 fine for the second offence, and $10,000 fines for any subsequent offences.

Newfoundland & Labrador

In Newfoundland & Labrador new public health orders in the province include a ban on public gatherings larger than 50 people and a mandatory 14 day self-isolation period for all travellers. Failure to follow the new orders can result in a $2,500 fine and up to six months in jail.

Corporations that violate the new orders may face fines of up to $50,000.

Northwest Territories

Only residents are allowed to travel to the Northwest Territories until further notice. Upon arrival, residents are required to self-isolate for 14 days. Failure to comply with the order could result in a fine of up to $10,000 and six months in jail.

Yukon

The Yukon has not introduced any punishments for not complying with public health orders, though the territorial government has said that a 14 day self-isolation period is required for anyone who arrives in the Yukon. 

Nunavut

Starting on March 24, Nunavut will only allow residents and critical workers to enter the territory. Anyone boarding a plane to Nunavut must first show proof of residency.

Before flying to Nunavut all residents must first complete a 14-day isolation period in either Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton or Yellowknife. A completion letter will also be required before boarding a plane to Nunavut.

On Wednesday Nunavut introduced punishments for individuals who are under investigation for COVID-19. Not following the mandatory 14 day self-isolation period can result in a fine of $50,000 or six month in jail.

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