Loading articles...

Enforcing COVID-19 restrictions about education over enforcement in Calgary

Last Updated Nov 24, 2020 at 11:47 am MDT

CALGARY (CityNews) – Tighter COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions are placing more pressure on Canadians to follow the rules, but when personal responsibility fails, it falls to police and enforcement.

Calgary police Cst. Chris Martin live-tweeted his shift this past weekend, highlighting his concerns shared by many in the city when it comes to COVID-19 restrictions.

“Their approach to this is going to be education first, enforcement second,” said Professor of Justice Studies at Mount Royal University Doug King.

Police said they’re noticing when bars close–which has been at 11:00 p.m. for the past couple of weeks–people aren’t going home alone, with more house parties being reported by neighbours concerned about the large gatherings, and responding officers have preferred education over enforcement.

“Whether it’s the homeowner, the home renter, the person in charge, just seeking their compliance with the thought in mind a $1,200 violation ticket can be issued,” said S/Sgt. Robert Rutledge.

Rutledge added that fines of any kind have been incredibly rare.

“We’ve only had to issue, I think, 38 tickets under the provincial health act, six tickets under the face-covering bylaw. Very, very few people are choosing to be non-compliant.”

“I don’t think you will see the law enforcement agencies take it upon themselves to say, ‘Ok, it’s now time for us to get tougher,” added King.

That direction would likely have to come from one of the three levels of government. The Federal Quarantine Act applies mostly to air travellers and there are Municipal by-laws, like Calgary making face masks mandatory and Provincial Health Orders which make up the bulk of the rules like what can open and how many people can be in one space.

While some believe zero tolerance is the answer, the case of three young people with different addresses each getting slapped with $1,200 fines for driving to work in the same car last spring drew immediate backlash, and the fines were dropped, showing why it’s a delicate balance.

“The tougher we get with enforcement, the more likely it is that there’s going to be resistance to that enforcement,” said King.