After bylaw officers sat outside for two days watching, Peel Regional Police officers moved in outside a Mississauga gym that opened this week in the face of Ontario laws that prevent fitness facilities from seeing most clients in person.
But despite the police presence, the gym remained open and its defiant owner was not charged.
Teresa Heron, who owns Huf Gym, declared she would start seeing clients again on Tuesday in defiance of Ontario’s COVID-19 emergency orders.
On Wednesday, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie responded directly to a Global News question about Heron’s decision to reopen.
“We don’t have a lot of tolerance for this. We’re going to give them the maximum fine,” Crombie said, before leaving the podium at a news conference.
But it’s easier to promise enforcement than to see immediate results as Global News saw over two days outside the gym.
Despite the presence of several City of Mississauga enforcement officers, the gym’s clients came and went through the gym’s front and rear doors unimpeded.
Heron entered through the main door while a bylaw officer sat inside his vehicle.
Asked by Global News whether she intends to remain open despite Crombie’s strong words, Heron was resolute.
“I am,” Heron said before closing the front door, dismissing the mayor’s pledge to charge her business to the full extent of the law.
“Then they need to do that … we continue to operate.”
Heron’s business partner told bylaw officers outside that they would not be permitted to conduct an inspection of the gym as they requested.
“We don’t want to deal with them,” the man told Global News, identifying himself as Jay.
The man declined to give his last name.
“They’re not the law: they’re doing illegal activities,” he said, referring to enforcement officers in front of the gym.
The man went on to give Global News his opinion of the importance of keeping gyms open despite record-high COVID-19 case numbers announced earlier in the day.
“These gyms are about being healthy. Going to doctors and dying in hospitals, that’s not healthy. Not pharmaceutical stuff, that’s not healthy,” Jay said.
Darren John, who said he’s worked at the gym for the last 18 years, disagreed with requiring fitness facilities to be closed now.
“I don’t think it should be shut down while they’re leaving alcohol stores open, ice cream shops open, weed shops open,” said John.
Just before 6 p.m., three Peel police patrol cars arrived at the plaza housing the gym. A sergeant told Global News police officers would not be executing a warrant to enter the gym. The owner had earlier told Global News she would not grant access to the gym voluntarily or without a warrant.
Some patrons leaving the rear door of the gym refused to speak to bylaw officers. Moments later, a female driver and female passenger were pulled over by police officers on Dundas Street. After speaking to an officer, the women were each given a ticket for $880.
Later, bylaw officers placed a notice on the gym’s front door declaring they could not reopen at this time.
Chris Giles, manager of compliance and licencing for the City of Mississauga, told Global News the gym’s owner is facing part three obstruction charges under the Reopening Ontario Act
Giles said the gym’s owners can be charged separately for each day they open in violation of the current restrictions.
He said Heron will also receive a summons for obstructing a person exercising power in accordance with an order made during a declared emergency.
However, the summons must be presented in person; so far, officials have not persuaded even to open the door for a face-to-face conversation.
As for penalties, fines for individuals can reach up to $100,000 and a year in jail and businesses and business owners can face fines of up to $500,000 and a year in jail.