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Spot a COVIDIOT? Here’s how to report coronavirus rule-breakers

Coronavirus: Quarantine law doesn’t guarantee compliance
WATCH: As more people return Canada, they now face the threat of fines and jail time if they don’t abide by a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine. But as Sean O’Shea reports, it’s unlikely police and government authorities will be following up.

It’s been nearly one week since the federal government invoked the Quarantine Act in a bid to stop Canadians returning from foreign travel from flouting coronavirus isolation orders.

That move made it against the law for returning travellers to defy the order to quarantine themselves for 14 days, full stop — no going for walks, no getting groceries, no checking in on friends to say hi.

But there continue to be reports from across the country of Canadians from all walks of life, even those not in official quarantine, who feel the orders from public health officials to shelter in place and avoid social gatherings do not apply to them.

That’s left many scratching their heads and wondering: when you see someone putting other people’s health at risk — also known as a COVIDIOT — who should you call to get help?

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READ MORE: COVIDIOTS — New name for shaming ignorant, selfish coronavirus reactions

The answer is different across different regions.

There’s no federal “snitch line” right now, so by and large, setting up ways for the public to report people defying social isolation or quarantines has been left to the provinces and municipalities.

Some provinces, like Newfoundland and Labrador, have set up online forms to take reports from the public about people who are “acting contrary to orders under the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act.”

New Brunswick police monitoring how they respond to calls during coronavirus pandemic
New Brunswick police monitoring how they respond to calls during coronavirus pandemic

Alberta has a similar process in place.

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Nova Scotia has encouraged residents to call their local police in such cases.

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“If you encounter an individual, group or business that is blatantly ignoring or going against protective measures such as self-isolation (when they meet the criteria) or social distancing, you can contact your local law enforcement agency to report it,” according to the province’s website.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba do not appear to have put specific directions in place for how to report.

Both note on their websites, though, that police across the provinces have the authority to enforce the emergency orders, including measures like the closure of non-essential businesses and bans on gatherings.

Coronavirus outbreak: Nova Scotia says it will get tough on people ignoring social distancing
Coronavirus outbreak: Nova Scotia says it will get tough on people ignoring social distancing

Ontario doesn’t have a provincial response site in place, but many residents have taken to using 311 services to report violations the same way you would a bylaw offence or municipal governance question.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Would you report your neighbours for gathering in public during COVID-19 crisis?

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That’s an option because the province’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act allows police and anyone else with designated enforcement powers to levy fines, which the province has pegged at $750.

In the Montreal suburb of Dollard-des-Ormeaux, the local mayor has asked anyone living near public parks to be on the lookout for people holding gatherings, and to call the city if they see any.

In Montreal itself, those kinds of calls have largely been going to local police and the same is true in Ottawa, where the city is asking all complaints about people not complying with the Quarantine Act to be shared with local police.

Coronavirus: Montreal suburb asking residents to report group gatherings
Coronavirus: Montreal suburb asking residents to report group gatherings

The City of London has also put its own municipal process in place.

That rolled out over the weekend and provides a phone number and email address for people to report incidents of people or businesses breaking the coronavirus isolation orders.

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“We urge all Londoners to utilize the email address and phone number provided by the City of London to report any COVID-19-related concerns,” says Steve Williams, chief of the London Police Service.

“This will ensure that our 9-1-1 lines are free for emergencies.”

Toronto fire chief Matthew Pegg also had to remind people late last week that the emergency line is — spoiler alert — for emergencies only.

“If the public has a concern that non-compliance is occurring with respect to these [non-essential business] closures, we ask you to call 311,” he said.

“Do not call 911 unless there is an emergency that requires a response by police, fire or paramedics.”

This really shouldn’t need repeating, but do not call 911 unless you are actually in an emergency.

It ties up vital resources for people who are in emergencies.

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