London, Ont. officials still waiting on Stay-at-home enforcement details

Mere hours before the stay-at-home order goes into effect in Ontario, how it will be enforced in London, Ont. is still unclear.

The London Police Service (LPS) and municipal by-law officials are still waiting for the government to reveal the specific details.

"I want to see what the ask is of police what our enforcement powers are, as well as the restrictions and exceptions," says Chief Steve Williams of the LPS. 

Williams was frustrated that he is still in the dark about the new guidelines but does expect them from the province either late Wednesday or Thursday. 

"I think it will be similar to what it is now. Complaint based but if officers come across something they'll take action. I do think there will be higher volume of calls from the public reporting incidents, but we'll see what that looks like from our workload."

That workload could be an issue. Williams says they are responding to 300 calls per day for service. Even if they wanted to deploy more officers for enforcement, his team has other emergencies. 

"We will not be chasing people down the street with tickets, or checking back seats for groceries," says Williams.

"It will be based on what is reported to us, but with the caveat of what the legislation actually looks like."

Tuesday the province said it will give authority to police officers and by-law to enforce and issue the new order.

London's municipal by-law team plans to stick to their current approach of education before enforcement. 

"We triage every complaint," says Orest Katolyk, chief of by-law enforcement for the city of London. 

"We identify hotspots, we visit those premises and we use enforcement action based on officer discretion. We are working with enforcement partners like LPS to ensure we can do everything possible to educate, and use enforcement when necessary based on public safety to stop the spread of COVID-19." 

Williams says the LPS also started out during the pandemic with education and awareness. 

"But when some people don't obey that's when we've had to up it to enforcement approach to get people's attention," says Williams. 

"We'd rather not, but unfortunately that’s the state we are in."

Katolyk says his team is working seven days per week to make sure the guidelines are followed. He says Londoners have been following rules during the pandemic. 

"Sure there are some areas that have received charges, but overall London is very compliant," says Katolyk. 

However they will need to learn of one more change to the provincial rules. 

"It is now a requirement to wear masks, and it is now not only the requirement to ensure customers and employees wear masks," says Katolyk. 

"One small change in the regulation is individuals can be subject to fines for not wearing masks."

Many of the details can be confusing, but Katolyk says there are a few simple ways to make sure you aren't breaking the law. 

"Stay at home, go out only when necessary, physically distance, do all the right things to reduce the spread."

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