The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) released a “Know Your Rights” guide for Ontarians who are confused about the province’s ongoing lockdown rules and stay-at-home order.
“This past weekend in Ontario has left many people uncertain about what powers police have to stop and question them during the stay at home order,” said CCF Litigation Director, Christine Van Geyn.
“We created the ‘Know Your Rights’ guide as a source of legal information for a public that has been provided with conflicting and unclear direction from the government.”
The guide is available for download on the CCF website and answers questions Ontario residents might have like: Can police stop me on the street? Do I need to answer police questions? Can police stop my car? Can police ticket me for being in a park?
“Under the new, amended police power, police can demand information from individuals in certain situations,” the guide reads.
“Police may stop you on the street to ask for ID and ask why you are outside if they ‘have reason to suspect that an individual may be participating in a gathering’ in violation of the stay at home order. Merely being outside of your house is not reason [sic] for police to suspect that you are participating in a gathering,” the guide continues.
“Without a reasonable suspicion, police cannot stop you while you are walking on the street to ask for your ID or purpose for being outside. You can ask police what their grounds are to suspect you are participating in a gathering.”
The guide comes at a time when Ontario Premier Doug Ford is reeling from a massive public backlash against increased police powers he attempted to introduce as a means to combat the province’s COVID-19 crisis.
Immediately after the Ford government announced the powers last Friday, the CCF issued a statement condemning the move as a step towards a “police state.”
“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 in a statement on April 17.
“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.”
This week, Ford issued an apology for the decision while the premier was in isolation after a member of his staff tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.