Police prepare for how to respond to vaccine passport disputes

Police services in northeastern Ontario are bracing for an increase in calls when the province's proof of vaccination requirement comes into effect next week.

If people refuse to comply, police may have to get involved

People visiting restaurants to dine indoors will soon have to show proof of vaccination. Police are preparing for their enforcement role when Ontario's vaccine passport comes into effect. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Police services in northeastern Ontario are bracing for an increase in calls, when the province's proof of vaccination requirement comes into effect next week.

Starting Sept. 22, Ontarians will have to be fully vaccinated in order to access certain indoor public spaces, including gyms and restaurants.  

It will be up to staff at those businesses to enforce the rules. Earlier this week, Health Minister Christine Elliott said if someone feels threatened — they should call the police.

"Could we expect an increase in calls specific to COVID or specific to the pandemic? I think it would be fair to say very probably, very likely," said Insp. Marc Brunette with the Greater Sudbury Police Service.

Brunette said police are prepared to respond to complaints and investigate as needed — though he said that may sometimes mean following up later that day or the next.

"They're not all urgent matters. And some of them quite frankly may not be police matters. That being said, we'll triage those accordingly and work with our community partners to respond," Brunette said.

Laying charges a 'last resort'

The Timmins Police Service is "hopeful" that clear messaging from the province will make people aware of what the rules are, and that there will be a high rate of compliance, said corporate communications coordinator Marc Depatie.

In cases where people don't comply, Depatie said officers will focus on education first. 

"The laying of charges throughout the pandemic has been the absolute last resort for the Timmins Police Service," Depatie said.

Like Brunette, Depatie said there are many instances of non-compliance where bylaw officers or public health inspectors would be the ones to respond. 

"If there's any suggestion that there's going to be a degree of hostility, then obviously the police have an obligation to respond," Depatie said.

If a person refuses to leave a business after being asked by the owner, Depatie said they could be charged under the Trespass to Property Act. 


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