Kingston police cracking down on park hangouts, Toronto has no such plans

Ontario’s stay-at-home order allows citizens to leave the house for just a handful of reasons and while outdoor exercise is included among them, simply “hanging out” in a park is not.


Ontario’s stay-at-home order allows citizens to leave the house for just a handful of reasons and while outdoor exercise is included among them, simply “hanging out” in a park is not.

Kingston Police issued a release on Friday saying parks should be treated as “a walk-through or a thoroughfare rather than a destination” and that they “will not be treating sedentary activities, such as sitting or sunbathing while in parks and other recreational amenities, as exercise,” and hence they are not exempt from the stay-at-home order.

The release came in response to that city’s decision to close down Breakwater Park where hundreds of people gathered on April 8.

Police said people were generally not congregating in groups larger than five, but they were also moving, “sometimes dependent on the known presence of authorities,” and officers were unable to “form evidence of possible infractions.”

As such, the force decided on “refining its approach” and is asking people not to hang out in parks.

In the City of Toronto’s daily COVID-19 briefing, Mayor John Tory said the city would not be taking the same approach.

“Of course people are supposed to go outside and engage in safe, healthy activity,” he said. “Some of this comes down to a question of interpretation, which is sometimes in the hands of enforcement people and other times just in the hands of people looking at what the rules are.”

Tory said the city is considering repainting physical distancing circles in parks as they did last summer, to ensure people stay at a safe distance. Enforcement officers will be out and about, but the approach is to encourage people to spend time outside, safely.

“We’re not saying they should not use parks. I think what we said was – go for a walk in your own neighbourhood, don’t travel to a ‘destination park,’ … try to stay within your own local area and of course try to stay with your own family, the people that you live with,” he added.

Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg added that enforcement continues to take place and teams were very active over the past weekend, “proactively inspecting and engaging with folks” as well as “reactively” responding to complaints.

He said 10 charges were laid and six notices were issued under the Reopening Ontario Act in relation to businesses and illegal gatherings, including in parks.

“The strategy for our coordinated enforcement action has not changed,” said Pegg.”Our teams are directly connected, working both proactively and working together to receive complaints, to prioritize them and triage them and to respond to them on the basis of the highest risk complaints first.”

The current outdoor gathering limit in Toronto is five people or less with physical distancing between individuals.

Earlier Monday, councillor Josh Matlow revealed he will present a motion at this month’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee meeting, calling on the City to launch a pilot project to allow for the consumption of alcohol in public parks and beaches with washroom facilities.

If successful, the pilot would run from the Victoria Day long weekend until Halloween.

With files from Maleeha Sheikh

Connect with Breakfast Television
Connect with @breakfasttelevision
live, weekday mornings
Subscribe or follow to watch live weekday mornings on Citytv, YouTube and Facebook. Connect with us on Instagram and Twitter for more news and entertainment