Ontario Premier Doug Ford stands at the lecturn during a joint press conference with Ontario Premier Doug Ford, at the Ontario-Quebec Summit in Toronto on Wednesday, September 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Ford accuses Ottawa of failing to enforce quarantine orders in Ontario

The RCMP separately said that in addition to tickets, its officers had charged two people under the Quarantine Act

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the quarantine system is “broken” because federal health officers are not charging people ignoring self-isolation orders for COVID-19.

Since the end of March, an emergency order under the federal Quarantine Act has required most people arriving from outside Canada to isolate themselves for 14 days, even if they don’t have symptoms.

While more than 2.5 million border-crossings have been recorded since then, only a fraction of those travellers are ordered to quarantine, while the rest are exempt as essential workers, such as truck drivers, front-line health staff or airline crew.

Those essential workers must not work with anyone over the age of 65 for at least two weeks, and must wear masks if they can’t physically distance from others.

If someone breaches a quarantine order, federal quarantine officers can lay charges with penalties of up to six months in jail and fines of up to $750,000, while police can issue tickets of up to $1,000.

Between March 25 and Sept. 3, police have been asked to check on the whereabouts of 87,338 people ordered to quarantine. Data provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada lists zero arrests for ignoring a quarantine order, one summons to appear in court, and 42 police-issued tickets.

The RCMP separately said that in addition to tickets, its officers had charged two people under the Quarantine Act for not remaining in quarantine for the required 14 days. The RCMP did not say in which province the offences took place or the status of those charges.

However, Ford says Ontario police checks have uncovered 622 quarantine-order scofflaws and is frustrated about the lack of penalties.

“The system is broken,” he said Thursday.

“You can’t have people going out there breaking the federal Quarantine Act and not being held accountable. It’s not like they’re going to be thrown in jail or something but they should get a fine. You can’t just say a slap on the wrist, ‘OK guys don’t worry about it because if you do it again we’ll slap you on the wrist again.’ It doesn’t make sense.”

Ford said he planned to raise the matter with the federal government during a conference call between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and premiers Thursday.

“We’ll get it fixed,” he said, expressing faith in Ottawa to help.

A spokesman for Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said police have to answer for why they aren’t issuing more tickets.

A statement issued by federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu’s office did not directly address the lack of charges being laid.

“The rules are clear: those who contravene the mandatory requirements may be subject to a range of enforcement measures, from verbal and written warnings, to fines and arrest,” the statement said. ”We will continue to work with the government of Ontario to protect Canadians.”

The Ontario Provincial Police have at times publicized the tickets issued, including two people ticketed near Fort Frances, Ont., in July after crossing into Canada from Minnesota and stopping at stores after being told to go straight to their property and stay there for two weeks. Two other seniors were ticketed by the OPP in North Bay, Ont. on July 9, after arriving from Florida to go to their summer cottage and failing to quarantine for two weeks.

The Public Health Agency of Canada did not provide information about the one summons to appear in court.

The compliance system is in the hands of multiple agencies. Canada Border Services Agency officers issue the quarantine orders when people arrive at the border, and in that process identify to the federal public health agency the people they believe to be at highest risk of ignoring the orders.

Health officers will use phone calls or emails to check in with those people. If health officers are concerned someone is ignoring an order, they will ask the RCMP to physically verify the compliance, and the RCMP will either do the check or pass it on to a local police agency.

A statement from the RCMP in April said officers “will use a risk-based, measured approach to non-compliance, focusing on education and encouragement” and that arrests would be a measure of last resort.

Canada’s quarantine order is less strict than some other countries. Iceland, for example, requires a pre-arrival declaration of no symptoms, and either a COVID-19 test upon arrival or a two-week quarantine. Australia quarantines all arriving passengers for two weeks at government facilities.

With a few exceptions for essential workers, currently only Canadians and permanent residents, and their immediate family members, are allowed to cross into Canada by land, sea or air.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusfederal government

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
EDITORIAL: The power of a single vote

In the Oct. 24 British Columbia election, every vote is important

Vernon’s Davison Orchards says it is closing its pumpkin patch for the rest of the season after receiving notice from Interior Health that U-Pick Fields are classified as an Event. Pumpkins are still for sale at the orchard’s market. (Facebook photo)
Vernon orchard closes pumpkin field after IH notice

Interior Health tells Davison Orchards U-pick fields are an ‘event;’ pumpkins now sold at market

Advance polling closes today at 8 p.m. in Vernon. Pictured: Schubert Centre. (Jennifer Smith - Vernon Morning Star)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Last day to cast early vote in Vernon

More than 15 per cent of eligible Vernon voters cast ballot in advance polling

RCMP stock photo (Black Press)
Kelowna RCMP investigating unexplained death of cattle

Cattle found dead near gravel road, east of the Kelowna Airport

Vernon Fire Rescue Services work to put out a structure fire in an abandoned house on Highway 97 and 39th Avenue Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
UPDATE: Vernon house fire under control

Single-lane traffic remains in effect on Highway 97 in both directions

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen is launching an initiative to provide horse-assisted therapy to frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic (Black Press file photo)
Community Foundation of South Okanagan Similkameen to provide horse-assisted therapy

Therapy sessions will be offered to frontline workers during ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Brody Peterson said he intends to dispute tickets issued by Grand Forks RCMP at his backyard “house warming” Saturday, Oct. 10. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Brody Peterson told The Gazette he intends to dispute tickets issued by Grand Forks RCMP at his backyard “house warming” Saturday, Oct. 10. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
‘This is a big outdoor space’: Grand Forks man behind backyard party to fight COVID tickets

Homeowner Brody Peterson said he’ll dispute tickets for refusing police instructions, alleged COVID violations

Paul Singla walks towards his Penticton home on Heather Road in 2018 after CBSA officers raided it. (File photo)
Singla and Toor make first court appearances on immigration fraud

The Okanagan men had their cases adjourned until 2021

A glimpse of some of the 480 (approx) cars written off as a result of the acid spills along the Trail highway in 2018. Photo: Trail Times
Kootenay Ford dealer’s frustration grows with ICBC

Trail AM Ford owner Dan Ashman says he just wants fair compensation from ICBC

Mail-in ballot from Elections BC (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
At least 26% of eligible voters have already cast their ballot, Elections BC says

Voters can cast a ballot until 8 p.m PST on Election Day

A 2018 decision to fly a rainbow flag ended up costing the City of Langley $62,000 in legal fees (Langley Advance Times file)
Human rights win in rainbow flag fight cost B.C. city $62,000

“Lengthy and involved” process provoked by complaint

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau and his family decide against trick-or-treating this year due to COVID

Adhering to local health authorities, Trudeau urges Canadians to do their part in following those guidelines

Most Read