Bylaw, police to crack down on 'idiotic' behaviour, mayor warns
'We're trying to stem the tide of this horrific disease,' Jim Watson said Monday
Ottawa police and bylaw officers are now enforcing federal and provincial regulations intended to rein in the spread of COVID-19 in the city, Mayor Jim Watson said Monday.
"Effective immediately," a special bylaw team has been tasked with responding to complaints of gatherings of more than five people, whether in public or private, Watson said during a teleconference with reporters and other city officials.
"It's not only illegal, it's idiotic to hold a house party in the midst of a pandemic," Watson said. "We're trying to stem the tide of this horrific disease."
The city received 50 complaints about such gatherings over the weekend, said Anthony Di Monte, general manager of emergency and protective services. As of Monday, 130 people in the city have tested positive for coronavirus and two people have died.
The bylaw enforcement team's main focus will be educating residents about Ontario's ban on gatherings of more than five people who aren't members of the same household. The team will also monitor city parks, which are now largely closed to the public, as well as restaurants and non-essential businesses that aren't complying with provincial orders.
If people refuse to comply, Di Monte said bylaw officers are authorized to enforce the rules. Individuals refusing to abide the province's physical distancing rules can face a fine of $750 or up to $100,000, while the director of a business can face a fine of up to $500,000 and corporations could pay as much as $10 million.
Di Monte said Ottawa police will work with the Canada Border Services Agency to focus on enforcement of self-isolation orders for anyone returning from other countries. Police will also enforce the quarantine order covering anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, such as a fever or cough.
Penalties for breaking Canada's quarantine laws include fines and potentially jail time.
Ontario's ban on gatherings of five or more people has some exceptions. It does not apply to private household members, daycares for children of essential workers, or funerals, where up to 10 people are still allowed to gather.
LISTEN: 'It's idiotic to be holding a house party in the midst of a pandemic,' Ottawa mayor says
Watson called it "completely irresponsible" for people to gather for events like soccer games or backyard parties at this time.
"Yes, it's terribly boring sitting at home watching old, bad movies on Netflix, but it's the way we're going to get through this," he said.
To report a complaint of a gathering for more than five, people should call 311. To report a person violating a self-isolation order, people should call the Ottawa Police Service non-emergency line 613-236-1222, ext. 7300.