Basketball player charged after refusing to leave Kitchener park, mayor says

A person has been charged after a group of people were stopped while playing basketball in a Kitchener park on Saturday. While others left when asked, one person refused to do so, Mayor Berry Vrbanovic says. The offence comes with a $750 fine. 

Bylaw officers started proactively patrolling parks to break up groups of 5 or more

A basketball net in a park in Guelph is taped off after the city ordered playgrounds and sports fields closed to stop the spread of COVID-19. On Saturday in Kitchener, a person was fined for refusing to leave a basketball court. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

A person has been charged by Kitchener bylaw officers after refusing to leave a basketball court on Saturday, Mayor Berry Vrbanovic says. The offence comes with a $750 fine. 

Vrbanovic said bylaw started proactive enforcement of city parks last week because the city has received complaints about people still gathering on sports fields and playgrounds. On Saturday, the bylaw officers came across a group of people playing basketball.

"A number of them were prepared to leave and did when asked, but there was one who basically said, it's my right to be here and I want to play basketball, and ignored them. And in the end, there was a fine laid," he said in an interview Sunday.

The bylaw officers tried several times to get the person to leave before issuing a fine, city staff said.

Vrbanovic said it's frustrating to see people still gathering together in groups after they've been told by the province and regional health officials not to do so.

"It's hard because there's so many people who are making the necessary sacrifices so that we flatten the curve," he said. "And then there are those who seem to not get it."

Groups of no more than 5

On March 28, Ontario Premier Doug Ford issued an order that groups no larger than five people could gather, except in certain circumstances. The exceptions include families with more than five people, emergency child centres caring for the children of frontline workers and up to 10 people can attend a funeral.

The province noted anyone who didn't correctly identify themselves could be fined $750 while anyone obstructing a provincial offences officer could be fined $1,000. 

"Failure to comply with an emergency order could carry punishments of up to one-year imprisonment or a fine of up to $100,000 for an individual," the province said in a release.

Vrbanovic said with many people being laid off or suffering financially during the pandemic, getting a fine may be the last thing they need.

"We really need Kitchener residents, and residents throughout Waterloo region and beyond … to really understand that this is important and by saying home, lives will be saved," he said.

He thanked people who were following the orders, especially considering the weather so far this spring has been nice and may have people wanting to get outdoors.

"Summer's coming, the good weather's coming. If we do the right thing, then hopefully this will not last as long and we'll be able to enjoy some of that weather," he said.