According to Ontario Premier Doug Ford, since federal health officers do not apprehend those disregarding self-isolation orders for COVID-19, the quarantine system is “broken.” Even if people don’t have symptoms, an emergency order under the federal Quarantine Act has been asking most people arriving from outside Canada to isolate themselves for 14 days since the end of March. Only a fraction of crossers are ordered to quarantine, even as more than 2.5 million border-crossings have been recorded since then. At the same time, the rest, such as truck drivers, front-line health staff, or airline crew, are exempt as essential workers.
Essential workers must wear masks if they can’t physically distance from others and must not work with anyone over the age of 65 for at least two weeks. The federal quarantine officers can lay charges with penalties of up to six months in jail and fines of $750,000 if someone breaches a quarantine order. Also, police can issue tickets of up to $1,000. Police have been asked to check on the locations of 87,338 people ordered to quarantine between March 25 to September 3. There have been zero arrests for disregarding a quarantine order, 42 police-issued tickets, and one summons to appear in court, according to data issued by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Ford stated that Ontario police checks had exposed 622 quarantine-order scofflaws, and they are discouraged by the lack of federal charges. On Wednesday, he said the system is broken and he need help from the federal government to make an amendment or change it. Sylvia Jones, a spokesman for Ontario Solicitor General, said police have to say why they are not issuing more tickets. Besides, Patty Hajdu, the federal Health Minister, issued a statement saying they did not directly address the lack of charges of being laid. The statement reads, “The rules are clear: those who contravene the mandatory requirements may be subject to a range of enforcement measures, from verbal and written warnings, to fines and arrest. We will continue to work with the government of Ontario to protect Canadians.”
On the other hand, the federal data shows that Ontario Provincial Police issued 14 tickets, RCMP 27 tickets, Sarnia Police Service one person, and the Barrie Police Service ticketed three. Even as five $500 fines and two $275 fines were levied, in 35 cases, the fine was the maximum $1,000. At times, the OPP had publicized the tickets. This included two seniors ticketed by the OPP in North Bay, Ont. on July 9, for failing to quarantine for two weeks after arriving from Florida to go to their summer cottage. The Public Health Agency of Canada was unable to give details about the one summons to appear in court.
Canada Border Services Agency officers are working together with many other agencies to issue the quarantine orders when people arrive at the border. They believe people are at the highest risk of ignoring orders. Health officers are planning to use phone calls or emails to check in with those people. The health officers will ask the RCMP to verify the compliance physically, and the RCMP either do the check or pass it on to a local police agency when they suspect someone is ignoring an order. According to a statement from the RCMP in April, officers “will use a risk-based, measured approach to non-compliance, focusing on education and encouragement” and that arresting people would be a measure of last resort.