Bylaw officers in Hamilton, Ont., say more than 100 charges have been laid in connection with suspected violations of the province’s Emergency Measures and Civil Protection Act during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ken Leendertse, director of licensing and bylaw for the City of Hamilton, told councillors during the city’s virtual town hall on Wednesday that bylaw officers have encountered people at house parties, using dog parks and golf courses and venturing out to the city’s many waterfalls, including Albion Falls and the Devil’s Punchbowl.
“The people that are coming to Albion Falls are mostly out-of-towners, but they want to come and see waterfalls,” Leendertse said. “All our waterfalls are closed.”
Leendertse said bylaw officers not only found people using Chedoke golf course as a leash-free park for dogs but also discovered a couple actually treasure hunting on the fairway with metal detectors.
“And, of course, we also found people having a round of golf,” he said.
Sixty-three people have been charged with using amenities in parks that are closed, 15 have been charged with gathering in a group of more than five and six people have been charged with obstructing a municipal law enforcement officer, according to the city.
Two charges have also been laid under the city’s physical-distancing bylaw, and seven charges have been laid against businesses, including four against non-essential businesses that reportedly chose to operate.
A house party last weekend saw a couple of people receive $1,000 fines after allegedly refusing to provide their ID to bylaw officers in addition to fines for reportedly failing to heed the distance bylaw.
“We’ve also found a lot of activity down at Battlefield Park,” Leendertse said. “People having picnics, people using all the equipment.”
Violations under Ontario’s Emergency Measures and Civil Protection Act carry fines that start at $750 and are issued by city authorities, including police, for gatherings of more than five people.
Additionally, the city has its own bylaw, which carries a fine of $500 for anyone failing to physically distance themself in public.
Leendertse says city parks are open to walk through, but that’s all.
“Use the parks, but you can’t use the amenities,” he said. “The provincial government did this on purpose so that we could keep physical distancing and that we would not spread this virus around.”
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
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