Police and bylaw officers in Ontario now have the power to stop and question any Ontario resident who is outside of their place of residence under the province’s new strict lockdown orders. 

Since the order was announced, one constitutional rights group has already decried the new measures as the introduction of a “police state.” 

The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) put out a press release on Friday denouncing the new powers saying that it could disproportionately impact over-policed communities. 

“Ontarians are essentially living under a 24 hour curfew and police will now be able to randomly stop people and vehicles and demand an explanation of why people are out living their lives. With these new police powers, Ontario is one step closer to becoming a police state,” said CCF Executive Director Joanna Baron.

“Low income and minority communities have borne the brunt of this pandemic in terms of cases and mortality, and they are now more likely to bear the brunt of police enforcement.”

The Ontario government has defended its decision to implement the new rules, claiming that they are necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“With our hospital system under significant pressure and the continued increase of COVID-19 variants, we are stepping up enforcement to ensure that people adhere to the Stay-at-Home order and follow public health measures,” said Ontario’s Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. 

“This is a critical moment in Ontario’s response to this deadly virus, that’s why we are doing whatever it takes to stop the spread and protect our communities.”

As announced earlier today by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, the enforcement measures will be in effect as long as the province’s stay-at-home order lasts. 

“Effective Saturday, April 17, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., police officers and other provincial offences officers will have the authority to require any individual to provide their home address and purpose for not being at their residence,” a Government of Ontario press release writes.

“In addition, police officers, special constables and First Nation Constables will have the authority to stop vehicles to inquire about an individual’s reasons for leaving their home. This additional enforcement tool will only be in effect during the Stay-at-Home order and exclusively to enforce the Stay-at-Home order.”