‘The education phase is over’: 14 people slapped with $880 fines after police bust large gathering in Toronto

TORONTO — It appears that the days of educating Toronto residents who break COVID-19 public health measures are over, with police now issuing hefty fines to rule breakers.

On Wednesday morning, Toronto police said they handed out fines of $880 each to 14 people under the province’s Reopening Ontario Act.

Officer Randall Arsenault said in a tweet that the tickets were issued in Scarborough, near Kingston Road and St. Clair Avenue East, following a “blatant disregard of rules meant to protect us all.”

Arsenault said “large crowds” of up to 40 to 50 people were observed as he urged residents to keep “house parties” under control.

Speaking to CP24, Toronto Police Deputy Chief Peter Yuen said that “the education phase is over” when it comes to enforcing public health measures.

“We’ve been at this game since March and we’ve been educating,” Yuen said. “The Toronto Police Service obviously has been educating and has been issuing many warnings but this is a time where we are going to get to a more aggressive stage and ensure people understand the legislation.”

The approach by Toronto police is a far cry from that of the city’s bylaw officers who did not lay a single charge in connection with COVID-19 violations over the last month, despite receiving more than 400 complaints.

Earlier this month, Ontario Premier Doug Ford lamented that the quarantine system is “broken” because federal health officers were not charging people found to be ignoring self-isolation orders for COVID-19.

On Thursday, Ford announced the rollback of social gathering limits in the province’s three COVID-19 hotspots–which now extend province-wide– and said “severe fines” will be issued to anyone who ignores public health guidelines.

“Too much of it has been tied to people not following the rules – people who think it’s okay to hold parties, to carry on as if things are back to normal,” Ford said at the time. “We can’t have these wild parties right now. It’s just way, way too risky. Don’t try to get around the rules.”

Ford said the decision to cap gathering sizes was made based off the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams.

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