Five people from different addresses in the Brantford area have been charged after riding in the same vehicle, which got stopped at a Timmins RIDE check during Ontario’s stay-at-home order on Saturday.
Under the current stay-at-home order, gatherings with anyone outside of one’s household are prohibited in order to help curb the spread of COVID-19, although there is an exception for people who live alone — they may have contact with one other household.
On Saturday, Timmins Police were conducting RIDE spot checks on Highway 101 near Highway 655 in Timmins, Ont.
Police said officers “had occasion” to stop a vehicle with five adult occupants from separate addresses.
“It was determined that each of the occupants was in breach of COVID protocols defined under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act,” officers from Timmins said.
“Each occupant of the vehicle was served with a provincial offence notice outlining their offence.”
Each offence under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act carries an $880 fine upon conviction or a guilty plea.
Timmins Police said this is the first instance in which officers have found it necessary to lay charges under Ontario’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.
“The educational stance and liberal use of discretion originally adopted by the Timmins Police has come and gone, especially in light of recent distressing numbers related to COVID positivity,” Timmins Police said.
“The necessity for Timmins Police officers to adopt a firmer approach when confronting such violations is deemed appropriate so that officers can better protect people from their own lack of good judgement and the indulgence in unsafe behaviors.”
On Friday, the Ontario government announced police forces would have sweeping new powers that would allow them the authority to stop people and ask for their home address and purpose for not being at their residence.
Just one day later on Saturday, the province walked back the announcement after widespread criticism, saying officers would no longer have the right to stop any pedestrian or driver to ask why they’re out or request their home address.
On Wednesday, Timmins Police spokesperson Marc Depatie told Global News that when the province granted the police new powers, officers would only be exercising their new authority if “reasonable grounds existed.”
“That was our reaction initially. Since that time, of course, the government has walked back the authorities,” Depatie said.
He noted the five individuals were charged during a RIDE check, during which 35 other vehicles were stopped, and not during a random stop.