City of Ottawa eyeing 8 p.m. curfew in parks

The city of Ottawa is looking at imposing an 8 p.m. curfew in city parks after concerns about crowding last weekend during the provincial stay-at-home order.

Mayor Jim Watson told CTV Morning Live Tuesday morning that police and bylaw officers will step up patrols in parks starting this weekend after bylaw received hundreds of calls over the weekend. 

He also said city staff are now looking at new measures to address illegal parties and limit the spread of COVID-19 in public spaces.

“There’s that small minority that ruins it for everyone else. We’re now looking at should we close the parks at 8 p.m. instead of 11 p.m., should we require masks in parks,” said Watson, adding more needs to be done to address crowding.

“We have to, obviously, step up enforcement and that will be done starting this weekend and continue while the good weather is on.”

Coun. Riley Brockington and residents called for stepped up enforcement in parks across the city after large crowds were seen in Mooney’s Bay and other large parks over the weekend. Photos on social media showed dozens of beer bottles and garbage at Vincent Massey Park Sunday morning after a party over the weekend.

“First of all; drinking in public is illegal, leaving a mess, but also it’s clear by the bottles there were many people at this particular park in breach of what is commonly known as the gathering regulation. You can’t be gathering with more than five people from outside your own household,” said Watson.

“So I was both disappointed that the people didn’t show any respect to the neighbourhood park, and also angered that they put themselves and others at risk as a result of gathering in large numbers at a number of parks over the weekend.”

The current curfew for city of Ottawa parks is 11 p.m.

Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services responded to 443 requests for service over the weekend. Officers issued 16 charges for violating Provincial Orders and the Temporary Mandatory mask Bylaw.

Ten charges were also issued under Provincial Orders in relation to gatherings in private residences.

“Due to extremely high call volumes, a number of requests for service are still under investigation and charges may be pending. BLRS has made staffing adjustments to facilitate enforcement of the amended Provincial Orders and provide proactive patrols of parks,” said Roger Chapman, Ottawa’s Director of Bylaw Services.

The mayor says while Ottawa Bylaw was “overwhelmed” by calls over the weekend, the city needs to make sure the rules are followed.

“People have to be respectful of the law and they have to understand that there are consequences if they aren’t,” said Watson.

“I’ve told are staff, ‘no more warnings’, get in there and ticket people.”

Under the current COVID-19 shutdown, gatherings are limited at a maximum of five people outdoors. Indoor gatherings are prohibited.

Kitchissippi ward Coun. Jeff Leiper said on Twitter that an 8 p.m. curfew in parks may be “too blunt”, but he is interested in what it would mean.

“I don’t want to prevent people from running/walking/cycling through a park even later at night. Those are critical spaces. But maskless multi-household gathering, even outdoors, is a huge concern for me,” said Leiper.

(2/2) I don’t want to prevent people from running/walking/cycling through a park even later at night. Those are critical spaces. But maskless multi-household gathering, even outdoors, is a huge concern for me.

— Jeff Leiper (@JLeiper) April 13, 2021

Somerset ward Coun. Catherine McKenney said they and other councillors have requested that the issue be discussed at Wednesday's city council meeting.

We have requested that the issue of an 8pm City park curfew be placed on tomorrow’s Council agenda for discussion. Here is the letter from @JLeiper @ShawnMenard1 @rawlsonking @MathieuFleury and me. pic.twitter.com/PTBIZscKvO

— Catherine McKenney (@cmckenney) April 13, 2021

"We are concerned that the proposal to impose an 8 p.m. curfew will not impact COVID-19 infection numbers but will cause undue harm to many residents. At the same time, the proposal will take away the only public space available to the thousands of multi-residential rental and condo buildings, which offer no private outdoor space, and takes away space from those who are currently unhoused" a note co-signed by McKenney and Couns. Mathieu Fleury, Rawlson King, Jeff Leiper, and Shawn Menard said. 

"Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, we consider that an urgent discussion needs to be had of measures that will help slow the spread such as mask-wearing in parks when residents not from the same household are in close proximity to each other."

The note instead suggested that the city vaccinate all essential workers and people living in "true infection hot spots" and call on the province to provide paid sick leave to workers.