Councillor calls for fines after busy weekend for bylaw
Ottawa bylaw officers issued nearly 500 verbal warnings on the weekend
An Ottawa city councillor is calling on bylaw officers to start issuing fines instead of warnings to people who continue to flout rules meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Last week, Ottawa's medical officer of health issued an order limiting the number of people allowed at any one time on the city's outdoor skating rinks and toboggan hills to 25.
Ottawa bylaw officers issued nearly 500 verbal warnings on the weekend to people caught breaking mask and physical distancing rules, including a ban under the public health order on playing hockey with others outside their household. Using hockey equipment on city rinks is also prohibited under the order.
While we do not wish to issue charges to residents using these amenities, failure to comply with an Officer’s instructions will result in a fine. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OttCity?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OttCity</a> <a href="https://t.co/HwkUIfw0Tf">https://t.co/HwkUIfw0Tf</a>—@OttawaBylaw
"We don't want to have to ticket, but the fact of the matter is too many people are flouting the safety rules," said Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Carol Anne Meehan.
"Obviously, people need an incentive to take this seriously, and if they're not going to follow the rules ... then we're going to have to ticket. That's the only tool we have left in our toolbox."
Fines coming, bylaw director warns
Roger Chapman, the city's director of bylaw and regulatory services, said bylaw officers witnessed "numerous cases" of people skating and playing hockey on stormwater ponds.
"The ice covering stormwater ponds is unpredictable. In fact, officers witnessed areas of these ponds with open water and thin ice," Chapman wrote in a statement to CBC.
We have to do something to make people start taking this seriously, and if it means hitting them in the pocketbook, then so be it.- Coun. Carol Anne Meehan
Chapman said everyone who was asked to disperse on the weekend complied with those requests. He said while it's ultimately up to the officer's discretion, "moving forward, those who fail to comply will be fined."
Meehan said the onus should be on parents to watch their children and help them understand why they may not be able to go tobogganing or skating at certain times.
She said too many parents aren't taking the regulations seriously, jeopardizing both their own safety and that of their kids.
"We're not out to kill fun. We're not out to penalize people. It's their health that we are worried about. We have to do something to make people start taking this seriously, and if it means hitting them in the pocketbook, then so be it."
With files from CBC's Ashley Wright