COVID-19 fines increased during second wave – Canadian Civil Liberties Association

"The reality is you can't fine your way out of a pandemic"

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has released a report that finds COVID-19 fines spiked in the second wave of the pandemic.

“Many provincial governments turned to law enforcement during the second wave of the pandemic levelling a record number of fines,” said Abby Deshman, Director of the CCLA’s Criminal Justice Program.

The CCLA says these types of punitive measures do little to combat COVID-19 but cause disproportionate harm to vulnerable groups.

“There is no evidence that punitive fines and policing are an effective way to confront a public health crisis,” said Alex McClelland, Assistant Professor at Carleton University and a co-founder of the Policing the Pandemic Mapping Project. “To the contrary, previous public health experiences have shown us that when you police and punish at-risk communities, you drive people away from the services and supports that they need to keep themselves, their families and their communities healthy.”

Common law won’t save a small business from facing fines after violating provincial COVID restrictions

CCLA’s report found that in Ontario, between March 2020 and August 2020 the province levied 2,562 fines. From September 2020 to March 2021, the province reported 3,942 fines, reaching peak enforcement at 1,368 fines in a single month in January 2021. Ontario handed out more fines during the second wave during the first.

“The reality is you can’t fine your way out of a pandemic. Fines should not be arbitrary and they should not be treated as a replacement for good public health policy,” said Deshman.