A youth plays basketball in an otherwise quiet court in Toronto on Saturday April 17, 2021. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is urging the federal and provincial governments to fight COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on proven public health policy interventions including paid sick leave, and education rather than punitive enforcement measures. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

A youth plays basketball in an otherwise quiet court in Toronto on Saturday April 17, 2021. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is urging the federal and provincial governments to fight COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on proven public health policy interventions including paid sick leave, and education rather than punitive enforcement measures. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Provinces issued more COVID-19 tickets during 2nd wave: CCLA report

‘A pandemic is a public health, not a public order, crisis,’ reads the report

Provinces became more punitive in their approach to COVID-19 infractions during the second wave of the pandemic, says the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in a report that suggests Quebec and Manitoba were particularly forceful in handing out tickets.

The association is urging the federal and provincial governments to fight the pandemic by focusing on proven public-health policy interventions including paid sick leave and education rather than punitive enforcement measures.

“A pandemic is a public health, not a public order, crisis,” says the report released Thursday.

“Punishing people with charges and fines misses the target – the virus itself – often in ways that exacerbate pre-pandemic inequality.”

The organization’s director of criminal justice Abby Deshman said the group was able to obtain data documenting the number of tickets issued for alleged violations of COVID-19 restrictions in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

The report examines the policing of COVID-19 orders in these jurisdictions between roughly September 2020 to March 2021, with the exact dates depending on provincial data available. It also compares first-wave ticketing to that of the second wave.

Deshman said the number of tickets in four out of the five provinces increased from the first wave and some of the jumps were “quite substantial.” Several provinces introduced laws that allowed for more enforcement and higher fines, she noted.

“The provinces have now reached over $24 million in fines issued since the outset of the pandemic, which is really an astounding amount of money,” Deshman said.

In Manitoba, about 30 COVID-related fines and charges were issued between April 1 and June 15, 2020. But beginning in November 2020, Manitoba law enforcement officers began giving out upwards of 100 fines per week resulting in a per-capita ticketing rate that was about three times higher than most of the other provinces studied, the report says.

Between September 2020 and February 2021, Manitoba issued 904 tickets to individuals and businesses, totalling well over $1 million in fines, according to the report.

The press secretary for the minister of health and seniors care in Manitoba said the provincial government is committed to protecting residents from the spread of COVID-19.

“Strong enforcement of public health orders is only one component of our multi-pronged approach, which also includes community supports, paid sick leave, and education,” Brant Batters said in a statement.

Quebec was identified as one of the most punitive provinces even during the first wave. Between April and August 2020, the province gave out 3,756 fines valued at $5.5 million, the report says.

Deshman said Quebec exponentially increased its COVID-related ticketing throughout the second wave, even in months when infection rates were going down.

Between September 2020 and March 2021, the province gave out 7,445 fines, totalling $12.2 million, according to the report.

Marie-Louise Harvey, the spokeswoman for the minister of health and social services in Quebec, said the ministry understands the impatience that people feel because of the restrictions.

She said everyone is looking forward to the end of the containment measures, including a curfew, as quickly as possible, but these measures are in place in order to preserve the health of the population and the capacities of the province’s health network.

“Currently, (the department) is working with the government to allow gradual easing in the coming weeks,” she said in a statement in French.

Ontario was one of the provinces that handed out the most tickets during the first wave and it surpassed that number during the second wave, the report says.

Between March 2020 and August 2020, the province reported issuing 2,562 fines, compared to 3,942 fines from September 2020 to March 2021.

The report noted that the number of tickets issued by bylaw and police officers in Toronto and Ottawa generally decreased during the second wave of the pandemic.

Brent Ross, a spokesman for the ministry of the solicitor general in Ontario, said the government made its decisions during the pandemic with the goal of stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“The measures that have been brought forward are based on public health advice,” he said in a statement.

“In the event that individuals are not following the rules we have confidence that enforcement personnel will exercise appropriate discretion.”

The report said that B.C. took a model approach to enforcement from a civil liberties perspective during the first wave when it managed to effectively flatten its COVID-19 curve without imposing some of the harsher lockdown measures seen in other provinces.

Enforcement activity has increased significantly in the province since then. B.C. reported handing out 1,584 fines between August 2020 and March 2021 compared to approximately 22 COVID-related fines in the first few months of the pandemic, according to the report.

The B.C. government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The report said that Nova Scotia was the highest per-capita ticket issuer among the five provinces in the first wave. Its law enforcement continued to give out fines for COVID-related behaviours during the second wave but at a much lower magnitude.

Of the total 912 fines given across Nova Scotia between March 2020 and February 2021, 76 per cent were given out during the first wave.

Heather Fairbairn, a spokeswoman for the Nova Scotia justice ministry, said the government’s focus has always been creating an environment of awareness, understanding and caring.

“The province remains in a state of emergency. When issues with compliance put our province at risk, there are measures in place to help protect the health and safety of all Nova Scotians,” she said in a statement.

Deshman said it’s become clear in the third wave that many of the people getting sick and dying from COVID-19 are being exposed to the virus in their workplaces or because they live in crowded apartment buildings.

“These are not people that are acting irresponsibly or recklessly.”

Policing already disproportionately and unjustifiably impacts racialized communities and those experiencing homelessness, addiction or mental-health challenges, she said.

“These are the very communities that, in many parts of the country, are experiencing the worst of this pandemic, and that are now being exposed to additional harms of an enforcement-led public health response.”

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Just Posted

The ‘official’ opening of 2nd Edition Coworking in downtown Fernie, a project five years in the making by the Fernie Chamber of Commerce. Left to right: Executive Director of the Fernie Chamber Brad Parsell, incoming President of the Fernie Chamber Norm Fraser, outgoing President of the Fernie Chamber Anita Palmer, and Mayor of Fernie Ange Qualizza. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Fernie Chamber cuts the ribbon on 2nd Edition

The new coworking space in Fernie is now ‘officially’ open, but has been operating since early 2021

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Sparwood Mayor David Wilks with the new AED SaveStation installed at the Sparwood Leisure Centre. (Contributed by District of Sparwood)
Sparwood installs public AED

The SaveStation was installed thanks to a grant from CP Rail

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday, June 10, mentioned Grand Forks among two other COVID “hot spots” in B.C. Photo: Screenshot - YouTube COVID-19 BC Update, June 10, 2021
PHO Henry says West Kootenay city is a COVID ‘hot spot’ in B.C.

There are 11 cases of COVID-19 in the Grand Forks local health area, according the BC CDC

(File)
“Gift card scam,” and “grandparent scam” are on the rise, Cranbrook RCMP say

Folks are falling for these scams: “No Government agency or reputable company will ever ask anyone to pay with gift cards in lieu of their fines”

t
How to tell if a call from ‘CRA’ is legitimate or a scam

Expert says it’s important to verify you really are dealing with the CRA before you give out any info

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Chilliwack cocaine trafficker Clayton Eheler seen with a tiger somewhere in Asia in 2014. Eheler was sentenced to nine years jail in 2018, but was released on bail in October 2020 pending his appeal of conviction.(Facebook)
Director of civil forfeiture seeks $140,000 from Fraser Valley drug dealer’s father-in-law

Clayton Eheler’s father-in-law Ray Morrissey caught with money in Fort St. John by B.C.’s gang unit

A Comox Valley shellfish operator pleaded guilty and was fined $10,000 in provincial court in Courtenay earlier this year. Record file photo
B.C. clam harvester fined $10,000 for Fisheries Act violations

Charges against three others were stayed in Courtenay Provincial Court

Frank Phillips receives a visit from his wife Rena at Nanaimo Seniors Village on their 61st wedding anniversary, March 31, 2020. Social visits have been allowed since COVID-19 vaccination has been offered in all care homes. (Nanaimo News Bulletin)
B.C. prepares mandatory vaccination for senior care homes

180 more cases of COVID-19 in B.C. Friday, one more death

Lorraine Gibson, 90, received a COVID-19 immunization at the South Surrey Park and Ride vaccination clinic. (File photo: Aaron Hinks)
Surrey has had 25% of B.C.’s total COVID-19 cases

Surrey recorded 4,012 cases in May

Most Read