Ontario’s lockdown: a quick guide to your legal rights

Picture of Joseph Neuberger

January 15, 2021 | By Joseph Neuberger

The provincial government has again issued a “stay at home” order under which Ontarians may leave their residences only for defined purposes (approximately 33 essential reasons), including exercise, walking pets, going to and from essential work, health care, shopping for necessities such as food, and household items like detergent, or if in need, underwear from Walmart. 

Here, in brief, are the legal implications of the “stay-at-home” order:

  1. The order is a legal directive, so people should leave their homes only for purposes found in the defined exceptions;

  2. The province will focus enforcement on places of business to ensure compliance with directives related to mask wearing, customer capacity and other health protocols;

  3. Police will respond to and will enforce violations of social gathering health directives. They have power to ticket hosts and attendees;

  4. Police CANNOT randomly stop a pedestrian or vehicle for the sole purpose of checking compliance with the “stay at home” order. During a lawful stop under the Highway Traffic Act (such as a sobriety check or traffic violation), however, officers can ask questions related to the “stay at home” order.  BUT there is no legal obligation to answer these questions;

  5. By-law officers also have the power to ticket people not in compliance with provincial health directives.  Again, there is no legal obligation to answer their questions;
     
  6. Canadian citizens have a constitutional right to return to Canada and cannot be denied entry. 

Joseph Neuberger is a criminal defence lawyer at Neuberger & Partners LLP in Toronto. Readers may reach him at joseph@nrlawyers.com

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This article has been edited for style and length by Julius Melnitzer at LegalWriter.net.

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