Waterloo Region, Guelph push back against new pandemic restrictions as province reverses course
KITCHENER -- A day after the Ford government enacted a number of new stay-at-home order restrictions for Ontario, and before they reversed course, Waterloo Region residents joined many across the province pushing back.
Among the frustrations Ontario residents had for the new set of rules announced Friday, the biggest backlash came from police being granted new power to stop anyone to ask where they live and why they’re not home.
“We have made the deliberate decision to temporarily enhance police officer’s authority for the duration of the stay at home order,” said Ontario solicitor general Sylvia Jones on Friday.
On Saturday night, it was reported that the province would reverse course on this decision and not allow police officers this power.
Before this, residents and officials in the area were expressing their displeasure.
“I’m not fond of giving the police extra powers,” said Kitchener resident Ed Speers. “I think they can be misused too easily.”
Shortly after the announcement on Friday, Waterloo regional police stated they would not be doing random stops of people and vehicles.
“I’m glad to see the regional police are kind of saying they’re not interested in that,” said Waterloo resident Brayden Stevens. “I think that protects our charters.”
Later that night, Guelph police announced as well that they would not be exercising their newfound powers and instead focusing on education, joining a long list of departments across the province.
“Extremely happy there’s been a growing list of police forces across the province that have started to say they will not be using these powers,” said Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) said on Saturday afternoon that they planned to challenge the expanded police powers in court.
“We’ll pull together a team that I anticipate will be launching litigation shortly,” said Cara Zwibel with the association. “We know that some communities are subject to greater scrutiny by the police than others, they tend to see police in their communities more frequently, and those tend to be racialized and Indigenous communities.”
On Saturday night following the province's announcement reversing course, the CCLA sent out a release stating they would put the legal challenge on pause.
Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic says more staff will instead be helping with bylaw efforts as the stay-at-home order continues. This includes relocating resources from the school no stopping zones for assistance with complaints to bylaw during high peak times.