London doctor objects to city's $880 fine calling it 'punitive'
Dr. Mark Goldszmidt says he should have been given a warning, not a fine, for violating emergency orders
A London doctor working on the front lines says he was shocked to get an $880 ticket for unknowingly breaking social distancing rules after he was caught throwing a ball with his kids alone in one of the city's parks.
Dr. Mark Goldszmidt said he was disturbed to learn the city is taking a "punitive" approach toward violators, instead of educating first-time offenders with warnings related to the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.
Goldszmidt, an internal medicine specialist at London Health Sciences Centre, is one of 33 Londoners to be fined since the rules were put in place in early April. Five businesses have also been penalized.
Saturday was Goldszmidt's first day off after a week of being on-call at the hospital, and his kids asked him if they could go to a park to burn off energy. He says he knew playgrounds and courts were off limits but he did not realize the rules extended to the entire space.
He says he prides himself on understanding the importance of physical distancing, which he practises at work and at home with his family.
When he found Doidge Park next to St. Joseph's Hospital empty, he figured it was a good place to let loose. He also notes he did not see any signs warning them away.
Under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, the city has closed playgrounds, golf courses, skate parks and dog parks.
Parks are open but only for walking through. Trails are also open so long as people don't stop and keep their distance.
"The thing that bothered me the most was that this wasn't about education. This was about punishment, as if I had done a criminal activity. I'm worried that other people, particularly those who can't afford this, are going to have the same experience that I did."
Chief Municipal Law Enforcement Officer Orest Katolyk said the city is focused on education through websites and social media. He says there are also signs around parks, including on trails where social distancing is in effect.
"While I can't comment on a specific occurrence, I can say that our officers have full discretion to issue warnings or Provincial Offence Notices in situations where individuals are found breaching Provincial Orders," Katolyk wrote in an email.
Goldszmidt is contesting the ticket, opting for a meeting with a city prosecutor to negotiate a resolution. He's also written to Mayor Ed Holder expressing his frustration.
"I didn't have a warning and I don't think [the public] is educated well enough. I think there needs to be a better strategy for handling this. If people are doing stuff that they're not aware of, first try to educate."
Goldszmidt also thinks there should be signs at the entrance to every park warning of the emergency orders.