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Burlington’s COVID-19 Physical Distancing Bylaw FAQs

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*UPDATE (April 11, 2020): The Province of Ontario has agreed to Burlington increasing the fines to $750 for the two charges associated with the City of Burlington’s Physical Distancing Bylaw to be more in line with other municipalities, such as Oakville.

We wanted the fine to be significant enough to send a message and provided tools of enforcement that the 2 metre/6 foot minimum must be respected for everyone’s health and safety.

When the City introduced the bylaw on April 6, the maximum we could impose was $500, but we simultaneously applied to the courts to allow us to set a higher minimum fine. They granted our request on April 9, so the maximum fine is now $750.

**Read a Statement from Mayor Meed Ward on the City’s new Physical Distancing Bylaw.

——

At a Special Council Meeting on April 6, Burlington City Council approved a new COVID-19 Physical Distancing Bylaw to complement enforcement of provincial orders.

Many of you may have some questions related to the bylaw. We’ve compiled a few frequently asked questions below. For more FAQs, please visit bit.ly/COVID19BurlingtonFAQ.

  • What is the City’s Bylaw Enforcement doing to enforce physical distancing?
  • What are the Provincial COVID-19 Orders the City will be enforcing?
  • What are the City’s COVID-19 physical distancing regulations?
  • Why did the City establish the Burlington COVID-19 Physical Distancing Bylaw?
  • What is the authority for the City to establish the Burlington COVID-19 Physical Distancing Bylaw?
  • How do the City’s physical distancing regulations fit with the Province’s physical distancing orders?
  • What are the fines the public will be facing for violating the Provincial Orders and/or the City’s Physical Distancing Bylaw?
  • Can we still walk through the City’s parks?
  • Can I have a gathering in my backyard or on private property?
  • Is it okay to gather in a plaza parking lot with my friends?
  • Can businesses be charged for violating the Provinces Orders and the City’s Bylaw?
  • Who do I call to report a possible violation of the Provincial Orders and/or the City’s Bylaw?

Q: What is the City’s Bylaw Enforcement doing to enforce physical distancing?

The City’s Bylaw Enforcement Officers are assisting the Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) to enforce the Province’s physical distancing orders and requirements by responding to complaints, educating residents and working with HRPS where police intervention may be warranted.  In addition, the City’s Bylaw Enforcement Officers will begin to enforce the physical distancing restrictions established by the City under the Burlington COVID-19 Physical Distancing Bylaw.

Q: What are the Provincial COVID-19 Orders the City will be enforcing?

The Province has issued a number of orders under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act which are in effect throughout the province to address the COVID-19 emergency, such as:

  • prohibiting events and gatherings of more than five (5) people, other than gatherings of members of a single household;
  • closing all non-essential businesses;
  • closing specific types of business, such as indoor recreational facilities, private schools, bars and restaurants (other than take-out facilities), theatres and concert venues;
  • prohibiting price gouging on necessary goods, such as masks and gloves, nonprescription medications, disinfectants and personal hygiene products; and
  • closing all outdoor recreational amenities, such as sports fields and playgrounds.

Q: What are the City’s COVID-19 physical distancing regulations?

The City has established the Burlington COVID-19 Physical Distancing Bylaw, which prohibits people from maintaining less than a 2 metre distance from one another while on any public property (other than people they live with).

The City may add further prohibitions as additional information is received and the need for additional regulation is identified.

Q: Why did the City establish the Burlington COVID-19 Physical Distancing Bylaw?

Halton Public Health has confirmed community spread of COVID-19 and is recommending that municipalities spread the message and reinforce the importance of physical distancing (i.e. the separation of people from each other) to help manage and fight the impact of COVID-19.

As a result, the City has established the Burlington COVID-19 Physical Distancing Bylaw in order to support and reinforce the Province’s physical distancing orders through municipal regulation.

Q: What is the authority for the City to establish the Burlington COVID-19 Physical Distancing Bylaw?

On March 21, 2020 the City declared an emergency under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.  The Bylaw was passed by the City in accordance with the powers granted to municipalities under the Municipal Act, 2001 to protect, among other things, the health and safety of the public.

Q: How do the City’s physical distancing regulations fit with the Province’s physical distancing orders?

The Burlington COVID-19 Physical Distancing Bylaw is designed and intended to support and reinforce the Province’s physical distancing orders and regulation.   The regulations established by the City under the Bylaw are consistent with and complement the intent of the physical distancing regulations ordered by the Province, as well as the recommendations of Halton Public Health and health experts throughout the province.  Where the Provincial Orders establish a prohibition or regulation, the Province’s Orders will take precedence over any regulation established by the City and will be applied by the City’s Bylaw Enforcement Officers.

Q: What are the fines the public will be facing for violating the Provincial Orders and/or the City’s Physical Distancing Bylaw?

Charges may be laid for violations of the Province’s emergency orders in two ways.  Police and municipal law enforcement officers may issue tickets; fines are to be determined. Alternatively, officers may instead lay a charge by way of a summons in which case the fine and penalties are potentially more severe, ranging from up to $100,000 for individuals, $500,000 for directors or officers of a corporation and up to $10,000,000 for a corporation that is found violating orders issued by the Province under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.  In addition, offenders may be subject to up to one-year imprisonment.

With respect to the Burlington COVID-19 Physical Distancing Bylaw, the City’s Bylaw Enforcement team may issue tickets which will carry a set fine or may lay charges by way of a court summons, which carry fines that will be set by a Justice of the Peace ranging from a minimum of $500 to a maximum of $100,000.  In cases where a person is charged with violating more than one of the physical distancing requirements in the Bylaw a minimum of $500 may be applied for each offence with maximum fines that may exceed $100,000.

In addition, charges may be laid under both the provincial orders and the City’s Bylaw at the same time.

Q: Can we still walk through the City’s parks?

Yes, however, to discourage people from gathering and to help reduce the transmission of the virus, the City has closed all vehicular access to our parks. Only walking, jogging, riding a bike or scooter/wheelchair through a park or trail is permitted. Remember to keep 2 metres away from others – about the length of a hockey stick.

All amenities in our parks have already been closed, please continue to respect the caution tape and keep off of playgrounds, sports fields, skateboard areas, tennis and basketball courts.

Q: Can I have a gathering in my backyard or on private property?

No, you may not have social gatherings of more than five people at your homes. You can gather in your backyard with your immediate family who live in the same household.  We encourage you to practice safe physical distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Q: Is it okay to gather in a plaza parking lot with my friends?

No, you may not gather in a plaza parking lot with more than five friends and you must maintain a physical distance of at least 2 metres from other people. The best thing residents can do to protect themselves and the community, is stay home.

Q: Can businesses be charged for violating the Provinces Orders and the City’s Bylaw?

Yes, businesses and business owners can be charged for violating COVID-19 emergency orders issued by the Province and the City. For example, businesses violating the Provincial Orders requiring closure of non-essential businesses or prohibiting price gouging on essential goods may be charged and subject to fines of up to $10,000,000, and officers and directors of these businesses may be liable for fines of up to $500,000 personally.

Q: Who do I call to report a possible violation of the Provincial Orders and/or the City’s Bylaw?

Residents who wish to report a potential violation of the Provincial Orders or the City’s COVID-19 Physical Distancing Bylaw should call the Halton Regional Police Service.

For the duration of the pandemic, if a member of the public wishes to report an incident of non-compliance with the emergency orders, they may contact the Halton Regional Police Service COVID-19 Hotline: 905-825-4722.

Residents can call the COVID-19 Hotline to report:

  • non-essential businesses remaining open
  • events and gatherings of more than five people
  • establishments remaining open that are prohibited from being in operation under the EMCPA
  • individuals using outdoor recreational amenities and parks

A call taker will collect relevant information from the complainant, and when appropriate, a bylaw enforcement officer or police officer will be dispatched to follow up.

In addition, with respect to complaints regarding unconscionable pricing or price gouging, residents may also contact the Consumer Protection Ontario Call Centre at 1-800-889-9768 (which operates between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.), or file complaints online at: https://www.ontario.ca/page/consumer-protection-ontario.

RELATED LINKS:

PLEASE NOTE: To stay updated on what the City of Burlington is doing regarding COVID-19, please visit the dedicated pages burlington.ca/coronavirus (and subscribe) and bit.ly/mayormeedwardCOVID19updates, and our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page — bit.ly/COVID19BurlingtonFAQ that are updated as new information becomes available.

A Burlington COVID-19 Task Force has been created to help support our community through this unprecedented emergency — updates will be provided at burlington.ca/COVID19taskforce.

To report an incident of non-compliance with provincial emergency orders, please contact the Halton Regional Police Service COVID-19 Hotline: 905-825-4722.

HELPFUL RESOURCES & RELATED LINKS:

*Posted by John Bkila, Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist

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