RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)

Civil Liberties group to seek amnesty for recreational tickets issued during COVID

The association has received at least 100 public complaints over the past 10 days

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association says it’s going to fight for citizens nabbed for municipal recreational infractions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We will be calling for an amnesty on all these tickets and that all the fines be forgiven afterwards, because of the unconstitutional mess that many municipal governments have put us into,” said executive director Michael Bryant.

The association has received at least 100 public complaints over the past 10 days from those who have been ticketed by bylaw or police officers for defying emergency management offences such as jogging on golf courses or exercising in parks.

Bryant said the restrictions designed to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus are an abuse of power because the recreation activities involved are usually harmless and should be met with warnings rather than costly fines.

The former Ontario attorney general said political pressure on police and bylaw officers to ticket people is unconstitutional.

“We don’t live in a police state. Politicians should never be giving direction to police or bylaw officers,” he said in an interview.

READ MORE: Harsh policing and big fines don’t make people safer from COVID-19: criminologists

“We’ve had more charges laid during COVID than took place during the October Crisis in 1970 when there was an actual threat to public order. COVID is not a threat to public order, it’s a threat to public health.”

Bryant said the association is looking for the right case to mount a challenge, but expects a Canadian lawyer will take up the cause.

Dylan Finlay may just do that.

The Toronto criminal defence lawyer said he’s considering whether to launch his own constitutional challenge after he was fined $880 for doing chin-ups in a city park. Or he may assist those who have approached him for help.

He argues that the laws contravene Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by infringing on life, liberty and personal security.

Finlay said they go overboard by prohibiting the use of soccer fields or baseball diamonds even for an immediate family that isn’t coming into close contact with anyone else. It also doesn’t take into account families that are cooped up in condos or apartments with no access to a yard.

“I wish the government would treat people like adults,” he said, adding that education has worked to encourage people to physically distance to stop the spread of the virus.

He said society can’t and shouldn’t police its way out of a pandemic.

“The world’s a different place and it’s not because of strict laws with heavy-handed sort of police enforcement. It’s because people are voluntarily deciding to agree with the government.”

General deterrence exists in the law, but issuing a fine of more than $800 to a person who could be receiving $2,000 a month in emergency federal government assistance is draconian and overly punitive, Finlay said.

Finlay acknowledges that COVID-19 is a health emergency and supports physical distancing.

“I’m sympathetic with what the government’s trying to do, I just think that these restrictions as far as they go to parks, they go too far.”

Bryant said Winnipeg and British Columbia are models for taking the right approach to preventing the spread of the virus.

Instead of handing out fines, bylaw officers inform and warn the public. And compliance is strong.

“And that’s in Winnipeg, which is notoriously over-policed and where there’s a high per-capita crime rate.”

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Peace Arch Hospital Foundation executive director Stephanie Beck speaks at a 2017 groundbreaking ceremony. In March 2020, she announced the Rapid Response Grant Program, aimed at providing financial assistance during the pandemic. (File photo)
Peace Arch Hospital Foundation launches youth program

Youth in Action designed for students who want to make an impact in their community

The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police “E” Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on April 13, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Surrey RCMP asking for dash-cam video of ‘suspicious incident’

Incident involves a newer model Toyota Rav 4 SUV

Surrey RCMP are investigating a “serious” collision near Cloverdale Saturday evening. (Curtis Kreklau photo)
Surrey RCMP investigating ‘serious’ collision in Cloverdale

Witness says vehicle collided with utility pole at approximately 9:30 p.m.

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

The Kimber family of Boston Bar lost their home in a fire. Blaine Kimber’s daughter created a fundraiser to help rebuild the home with the goal of $100,000. (Screenshot/GoFundMe)
Fundraiser created for Boston Bar family that lost everything in weekend fire

Witnesses say the Kimber family escaped the fire without injury, but their home is a total loss

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

The family of injured Willoughby resident Ronald Gerald Jesso is hoping someone saw something that will help solve the mystery of how he came to be so badly hurt on the morning of Feb. 22. Jesso is still in hospital. (Jesso family/Special to Langley Advance Times)
An appeal to help solve the mystery of an injured Langley man

Family of Ronald Gerald Jesso asks witnesses to come forward

Most Read