The Aftermath of Ford's Covid-19 Policing Policy

The Premier's controversial policing of Covid restrictions begs some questions.


By Mellisa Ing | Canada

 

Bruce Reeve - https://www.flickr.com/photos/58609798@N00/13912079946/

 

On April 16, 2021, Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford announced the expansion of policing policies in response to rising Covid-19 cases in a press conference. Amongst several, one causing uproar was police official’s ability to question individuals, including demanding identification, anywhere and at any time. At the time of this release, Covid cases in Ontario were at their peak of about 4,000 new cases daily and increasing and Ontarians were entering the second consecutive month of emergency lockdown.


The disarray and seemingly “tone-deaf” nature of Ford’s decision to up police enforcement’s control was immediately reprimanded. The Civil Liberties Association raised concerns of racial profiling and the unconstitutional nature of the arbitrary powers given to police. Immediately following, a social media frenzy began and hashtags #DougFordSucks, and #FireDougFord trended on both Instagram and Facebook. Throughout Covid-19, the PC government has become no stranger to scrutiny towards their decisions and strategies to combat the virus.


However, regardless of such, government bodies, organizations, and officials — for the most part — have obeyed and followed orders given. But what sparked attention of all Canadians was that merely hours after the new enforcement strategy was mandated, police forces around the province released statements that they would not be following the mandates. York Region Police provided a statement on all social media platforms that, “After having reviewed the new provincial regulation, @YRP will be taking a balanced approach to enforcement and will not be conducting random vehicle or individual stops.” This followed suit with almost every Police Force in the province rejecting orders set by Ford.


This was an instrumental moment for Ontarians all over the province as news began to circulate of the defiance made by the government institutions. Although the contention still stands as to what would dictate “reasonable suspicion” or appropriateness for an individual to be stopped and questioned, the mere fact that the defiance occurred holds important impacts.


Over the past year, Ontarians have been in and out of “Stage 1” and emergency lockdown—the majority of the time being spent in the latter. This move made by police departments demonstrated to many that Ontarians, or rather, government institutions, are tired and disapprove of steps taken by the PC government in response to Covid. Although Ford has received backlash by health officials for not prioritizing or acknowledging mental and physical health concerns and needs this past year by closing down parks and outdoor spaces, his government has never seen defiance against mandates to this magnitude.


The added nature of police enforcement’s rejection of such mandate may very well demonstrate to citizen’s that compliance of Covid 19 regulations are not mandatory. These past several months, the PC government has been pushing for the idea of herd mentality in regard to getting Covid-19 vaccines. But such ideas can also be exercised to defy regulations if Ontarians were to follow suit of government institutions. The issue for many of importance was the act of police departments to defy restrictions set by the government in response to Covid 19, rather than the actual mandate itself. Although Ontario is currently facing a downward trend in daily new cases and nearing reopening, the contentious matter of if Ontarians will abide by regulations set if a fourth wave were to occur is still to be determined.

 

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