London

City fines 3 people as it cracks down on public gatherings, organized events

Two women have been handed tickets by the City of London after organizing a protest in March where hundreds of people were seen flouting public health measures to protest the provincial lockdowns.

2 women fined for organizing 'Freedom Protest' in March, 1 woman fined for attending gathering

At least 200 people attended the 'Freedom protest' on March 20 at Victoria Park to push back on provincial restrictions, when London, Ont. was in the Orange 'restrict' zone. (Kate Dubinski/CBC)

Two women have been handed tickets by the City of London after organizing a protest in March where hundreds of people were seen flouting public health measures to protest the provincial health measures.

At least 200 people attended the "Freedom Protest" on March 20 at Victoria Park, where by-law officers were seen taking photos and gathering evidence.

At the time, London was in the orange "restrict" zone, which permits up to 100 people for organized public events and gatherings outdoors where physical distancing can be maintained.

As a result of the investigation, a 24-year-old woman and a 38-year-old woman have each been issued a court summons, a news release Monday from the city said. The women were ticketed for organizing an outdoor gathering which exceeded the number permitted under the Reopening Ontario Act.

The city did not release the names of those charged but noted that the investigation remains open at this time.

"At a time when cases remain high and we are seeing increased restrictions across Ontario, we appreciate that we continue to see high compliance of regulations," says Orest Katolyk, Chief By-Law Officer.

"We encourage all Londoners to follow the Provincial and local health precautions and restrictions in place as we all do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19," Katolyk said.

Anyone who hosts or organizes parties, rallies or gatherings in violation of current provincial regulations can face a fine of up to $10,000.

Additionally, a 21-year-old woman was fined by by-law enforcement for participating in a gathering at a residence on Beaufort Street, near Western University, on April 11.

Calls for increased enforcement from Ontario government

The fines come after calls for greater enforcement from the Ontario government were made on Friday, including expanding authority to allow police to stop pedestrians and drivers at random to ask why they were not at home, and to ask for their address. 

The move was met with pushback by communities and many police forces across the province, including the London Police Services, and the Ford government revised the mandate Saturday.

Police are now being instructed by the province to stop anyone if they're suspected of participating in an organized public event or social gathering.

"COVID-19 and public health protocols aimed at curbing the spread should be taken seriously, but no Londoner should worry about being arbitrarily stopped or questioned - either by Police or By-law enforcement - as part of new provincial regulations. That simply won't be happening in our community," said London Mayor Ed Holder.

City By-law officers will continue to address infractions at outdoor recreation amenities where activities are prohibited, essential business operations that are not following protocols, gatherings that are above the stated limits, and violations of the mask and face coverings regulations in all settings, a city release noted.

The province first imposed a stay-at-home order on April 8 for four weeks but has since been extended the order until at least May 20, as COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket along with patients in intensive care units across Ontario.

"Throughout the pandemic, City of London By-law officers have focused on upholding restrictions that have been put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community, using all available options including engagement, education and enforcement," the city news release reads. 

"By-law officers will continue to respond to complaints and proactively patrol locations where infractions have been observed," it noted.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sara Jabakhanji

Reporter/Editor

Sara Jabakhanji is a reporter with CBC News and graduate of Ryerson's School of Journalism. Sara has chased stories for the CBC across the province of Ontario in Toronto, Ottawa and is currently working with the CBC London bureau. She was born in Damascus, Syria and immigrated to Canada with her family when she was eight years old. Sara can speak fluent Arabic and is working on improving her French. She can be reached at: sara.jabakhanji@cbc.ca

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