Under the current stay-at-home order, Ottawans shouldn’t expect to be arbitrarily pulled over or stopped on the street by police looking to question why they’ve left their residences, the city’s deputy chief says, but don’t take that to mean those in violation of the order can count on total impunity.
“What you will see is, in the course of our duties, whether it’s regular traffic stops, whether it’s regular calls for service or interaction with the community we have, there will be some of that questioning that can and will be layered in to our general course of duties,” Ottawa police Deputy Chief Steve Bell said. “And we will continue to respond to complaints, whether it be from public health or our community about people that are violating these orders.”
According to Bell, Ottawa police won’t be arbitrarily stopping people walking down the street to ask what permissible purpose they’re outside for.
Michael Spratt, a criminal law specialist and partner at the Ottawa law firm Abergel Goldstein & Partners, spoke critically Friday about the lack of clarity he saw in the stay-at-home order. (You can read its text at Ontario.ca, including a list of all the permissible reasons one can venture outside.)
“The fact that the Ford government has drafted regulations that are broad and ill-defined is not only bad for public safety in terms of the pandemic,” Spratt said. “That type of shifting of discretion in terms of enforcement to the police puts the police… in a bad situation because they don’t know the precise scope and limit of their authority.
“And it puts the public in a bad situation because that is ripe for police abuse, and the communities that feel that abuse the most are racialized communities, homeless communities, individuals with mental health and people with other vulnerabilities.”
Read Taylor Blewett’s full article: Ottawa Citizen