What are the Social Distancing Laws in Ontario?

Since the COVID-19 outbreak hit Canada, life in Ontario has looked very different. With new limitations being enacted by different levels of government, it has become hard for many Ontarians to determine what they can and cannot do. To help slow the spread, the government of Ontario declared a state of emergency in mid-March. This allows the Premier to make emergency orders including orders to close private and public buildings, fix prices for goods to prevent price gouging and limit the personal travel of all those in the Province.

Social distancing rules have forced Canadians to drastically change their everyday routines. From working at home to forgoing social engagements and physical contact, we hope to slow the spread and return to normal life. However, the rules regarding what is mandatory and what is suggested by government officials has been increasingly hard to decipher.

With new limitations being implemented and changes to existing limitations being made every day, it has become difficult to understand what we can and cannot do to stay safe and avoid being ticketed. Recent news reports show citizens being slapped with large fines for doing routinely mundane things like roller blading or playing group sports.

Part of the Federal Government’s response has also been to utilize Canada’s Emergency Powers and the Quarantine Act for travellers. With all the recent changes, it’s important to remember we still have rights upon arrest.

The information in this article is as of April 16, 2020 and may change. This information is subject to our Disclaimer and Terms of Use. It is not legal advice to the reader, you should not act or fail to act based on any information without first contacting a lawyer.

When Navigating our New Normal, there are Three things to Keep in Mind.

  1. The number of people you are with
  2. Your location
  3. Your distance from others

Global News Morning Show: COVID-19 Social Distancing Laws.

Number

Under new emergency order regulations, individuals may not gather, either inside out outside, in groups of more than five people, unless they reside together. This means that it is unlawful to have a gathering of more than five people, even on private property or inside a private residence. Additionally, it is also unlawful to have a gathering of more than five people who do no reside together, even if the individuals are staying at least six feet away from one another. For example, a group of five or more people who do not reside together, gathering on a street, will be breaking social distancing rules even where they maintain six feet of space between each other.

An exception has been made for groups of more than five who reside together and for funerals, which are permitted to have up to ten people present. Exceptions have also been made for essential workers. For example, hospital workers or grocery store workers are permitted to be in groups of more than five while carrying out their duties.

Location

As a result of the state of emergency and under the authority of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act 1990, the Premier of Ontario has put in place strict regulations regarding non-essential travel. Regulation 104/20 stipulates that all outdoor recreational amenities shall be closed. For the purposes of this regulation, outdoor recreational amenities include;

  • Playgrounds, play structures and equipment
  • Outdoor sports facilities and multi-use fields which include;
    • Baseball diamonds,
    • Soccer fields,
    • Frisbee golf locations,
    • Tennis, platform tennis, table tennis and pickleball courts,
    • Basketball courts
    • BMX parks, and
    • Skate parks
  • All off-leash dog areas
  • All portions of park and recreation areas containing outdoor fitness equipment
  • All outdoor community gardens and allotment gardens
  • All outdoor picnic sites, benches and shelters in parks and recreation areas
  • All outdoor recreation amenities that are intended for use by more than one family, regardless of whether they are on public or privately-owned property.

Exceptions have been made for individuals who must enter any of these areas for maintenance, safety or law enforcement purposes.

All Ontario parks and public spaces and squares have been closed until the state of emergency has ended. In addition, all non-essential businesses have been forced to close. Individuals who are caught in public places may be ticketed under the by-law for failure to comply with an emergency order.

Distance

The final factor Ontarian’s must be aware of when navigating life during the COVID-19 pandemic is distance. Many jurisdictions have enacted regulations and by-laws regarding the amount of physical distance that individuals must keep between each other when they are out in public.

Toronto for example, has enacted a by-law regarding physical distancing in public through amendments to chapter 608 of the City of Toronto Municipal Code. The amendment requires individuals who do not reside together to keep a distance of six feet between them while in public parks or squares in Toronto.

The amendment applies only to public parks and squares and not sidewalks or roadways. Further, the by-law only applies to individuals who are in each others presence for more than an incidental time. This means that individuals walking past each other, coming within six feet of one another may not be breaking the by-law.

By following these new guidelines and regulations, Ontarian’s can ensure they stay safe and stop the spread of the virus. In addition to the emergency powers put in place by the Ontario government, the Federal government has also implemented emergency regulations to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. For more information on Canada’s Federal emergency powers click here.

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