Bylaw unlikely to ticket residents responsibly enjoying a drink in Toronto parks

Toronto bylaw officers and police will prioritize cracking down on large indoor and outdoor gatherings, not a couple of residents following public health rules.

City says its focus in the coming months will be enforcing the province's COVID-19 regulations

Torontonians observe physical distancing in Trinity Bellwoods Park on May 20, 2020. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Toronto bylaw officers and police will prioritize cracking down on large indoor and outdoor gatherings this summer, not a couple of residents following public health rules and responsibly enjoying a drink at the park.

"Individuals consuming an alcoholic beverage in a park with their household are not a priority for enforcement," the city said in a news release Friday. 

The city said its focus in the coming months will be enforcing the province's COVID-19 regulations, including the current stay-at-home order, and events that pose the greatest risk to public health and safety. 

Bylaw officers responding to incidents at parks will work to disperse the crowd and stop people with large amounts of alcohol, the city said, noting that last year, they issued only 69 tickets for alcohol across Toronto's 1,500 parks. 

Last month, councillors on the economic and community development committee unanimously voted down a motion that would've legalized drinking in city parks.

Staff were not in favour of the idea, saying it would contradict Toronto Public Health's messaging for people to stay home and limit social gatherings to stop the spread of COVID-19. The city is also stretched thin responding to the pandemic and wouldn't have the resources to ensure the new rules were being followed. 

Police lay 350 charges in one week

Toronto police will continue to focus on stopping indoor events, including at short-term rentals and closed restaurants and bars, the city said.

In the last week alone, police said they laid 350 charges, including 16 criminal charges, in relation to people breaking the province's stay-at-home order by gathering indoors — 100 more than the week before. The public reported many of the incidents to police. 

"The number of gatherings, parties and events being held across Toronto remains concerningly high," said Staff Supt. Randy Carter in a news release. "Police are being called to attend these scenes on a daily basis."

City inspectors are tasked with responding to complaints at businesses. Toronto Public Health is responsible for temporarily closing workplaces with outbreaks under its Section 22 order. 

The health unit issued a similar order to education providers that will go into effect Monday. It requires all education settings, including private schools, to limit student attendance for in-class learning "as much as possible." 

The order gives local officials the power to close any Toronto school breaking the rules and is meant to "enhance" provincial regulations.