TORONTO (NEWS 1130) — The group behind a recent study into fines and policing of safety rules during the coronavirus pandemic says the enforcement disproportionately targets Black, Indigenous, and homeless Canadians.
Thousands of tickets were handed out by bylaws and police officers, from April 1 to June 15, to people accused of breaking emergency measures, according to the study, conducted in part by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
“We estimate that over 10,000 COVID-related charges have been laid in the course of 100 days,” said Abby Deshman, with CCLA, a human rights organization.
The association is concerned, however, that enforcement has been discriminatory.
“Hearing that from Black Canadians, hearing from groups that serve Indigenous people, that those groups are disproportionately impacted,” Deshman added. “We’ve been hearing from organizations working with street-involved clients, that clients are receiving many, many tickets.”
She added members of the LGBTQ+ community also reported they felt targeted by law enforcement.
The study was conducted as part of a university-based project mapping policing during the pandemic. Called “Stay off the Grass: COVID-19 and Law Enforcement in Canada,” it focused solely on the use of coercive fines and law enforcement to respond to a public health crisis.
“Lessons from previous public health emergencies that compliance with public health strategies is most effectively secured through goodwill and education – not policing, fines and arrests,” Alexander McClelland, project co-founder from the University of Ottawa, says in a release.
Thousands of tickets were issued during the period studied, representing more than $13 million in fines.
Ticketed offenses included walking off a path in a park, or through a field that had soccer nets.
Fines total $1,500 in some areas.
“These are extraordinarily punitive fines that, for many people, represent their entire month’s grocery budget or rent,” she said.
The majority of tickets, 98 per cent, were issued in Quebec, Ontario, and Nova Scotia.
“This report proves that we’ve got an ugly ticketing pandemic, replete with COVID carding and racial profiling, in central and eastern Canada. Somehow a public health crisis has been twisted
into a public order crisis,” says Michael Bryant, executive director CCLA.