People should beware of undermining measures imposed to control COVID-19. Misinformation has been circulating, suggesting that the government is misrepresenting the authority that police and by-law officers have in terms of enforcing the lockdown measures. However, the reality is that repercussions do flow from breaches of our emergency order.

For example, a known anti-mask advocate from King City was added to the no-fly list at Toronto Pearson Airport. He attended the airport and attempted to undermine authority by repeatedly asking three Peel officers to repeat their oath. He also attempted to relate their Oath to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He kept stating that it was their primary duty as officers of the law to uphold constitutional rights and freedoms, but the problem is that their role is also to ensure the safety of the public. COVID-19 is a public health and safety concern, and currently the law states that we must comply with the protocols put in place to curtail its spread. If not, disciplinary measures are in place. Furthermore, the Charter doesn’t allow others to cause public disturbances or harass others (which is exactly what this individual was doing to the officers).

We have the right to make our own decisions, but the question is whether those rights and decisions infringe upon the rights of others. This anti-mask advocate did not understand that Constitutional protection is not necessarily absolute, and this is because of section 1 of the Charter. Section 1 states that the guarantees of rights and freedoms set out in the Charter are subject to reasonable limits prescribed by law. What does this mean? This means that Canada’s federal and provincial emergency procedures policies may override parts of the Charter. If it is found that an individual’s Charter rights have been infringed, the next question is whether the infringement is justified under s. 1 of the Charter; in these cases, the question becomes whether or not the infringement is justified as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Police have also criminally charged a Toronto restaurant owner who attempted to keep his business open in opposition to the emergency orders in place. Initially, by-law and public-health infractions were laid against him, his restaurant was seized, and the locks were changed. The restaurant owner was given brief access to the establishment, but he attempted to destroy the locks and disobeyed orders. He was subsequently charged with attempting to obstruct police, mischief, and trespassing.

Currently, in Ontario, the deadlines for individuals who have received tickets and wish to dispute them have been suspended. However, this does not mean that the courts simply throw away lockdown-related tickets if they are not paid. Eventually, the matter will return to court, and it will be up to the individual disputing the ticket, or their lawyer, to establish a defence. The law in this area is new and evolving, which means that there may be clever defences available. Leave it to the trained professionals at our firm to brainstorm and formulate a defence which may be accepted by the court. Did you leave the house out of necessity? Did you act in a manner that you believed to be in accordance with the COVID-19 policies? The facts of the case will matter, and it is ultimately up to the courts to determine which facts will be accepted as relevant based on the arguments put forward in court.

If you or someone you know has been ticketed for disobeying emergency orders, contact us at DeMelo Law so that we can help you review and dispute your ticket.