To: Solicitor General Sylvia Jones April 2nd, 2020
CC: MPPs in Hamilton, Mayor of Hamilton, & City Councillors
The Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion is concerned about the parameters of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) which requires residents of Ontario to identify themselves to a provincial offences officer which includes police officers, First Nations constables, special constables, and municipal by-law enforcement officers. According to Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General, residents of Ontario will be required to disclose their correct name, date of birth and address. If found to not comply with the emergency order and failure to identify oneself accurately will carry a fine of $750 (failure to comply) or $1000 (obstruction). Also, failure to comply with an emergency order could carry punishments of up to one-year imprisonment or a fine of up to $100,000 for an individual, $500,000 for a director of a corporation or $10,000,000 for a corporation itself through summons.
In the middle of a global pandemic, it would be hugely problematic to enforce fines on individuals who may be going out to address essential needs. Using carceral measures to enforce a state of emergency seems to be treading on authoritative means of power as opposed to a collaborative approach with the public. At this time there are many individuals across Ontario and the country who cannot afford to pay rent, buy groceries, or are awaiting $2000 from the Federal government which may not be enough to cover their daily living. Does it make sense to further penalize individuals who may not have identification on them if they are going for a stroll, going to the grocery, checking in on neighbors, and so forth?
If this global pandemic has taught us anything, it should be that when tacking issues, it should be done collectively and collaboratively. This measure undermines the type of collective effort needed to support our neighbors and residents of Ontario. We are acutely aware of the need to stay home and reduce the amount of spread of the COVID-19 virus, however, we cannot use punitive measures that put individuals in further debt.
Consequently, punitive measures like this will adversely affect racialized and marginalized individuals in Hamilton and other cities in Ontario. The practice of a provincial offences officer which includes police officers First Nations constables, special constables, and municipal by-law enforcement officers asking for identification from residents is called Carding or Street Checks. This practice was and is used by police across the country for investigative purposes. In Hamilton the practice was known to target racialized individuals; 11% to 14% of police street checks were done on Black people over five years. But only 3% of the population of Hamilton is Black, according to the 2011 census.  Other racialized individuals are and continued to be affected by the practice of carding, as Hamilton Police statistics showed that 20%-25% of street checks done were on visible minorities. What faith do we have in Provincial offences officers to not continue this inherently discriminatory act towards racialized residents of Ontario?
We are asking the Ontario government and Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General to reconsider the parameters of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA). Many community organizations across the Province will be able to connect with residents in their respective communities to relay the message of staying home and complying with the current orders of the State of Emergency.
Also, in the spirit of working together, we feel municipalities can use the resources at their disposal to get the word out using multiple outlets. For example, some City Councillors have been sending out information relating to the State of Emergency and what they need to do to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Neighborhood associations across the province can be encouraged to reach out to residents to inform about the state of emergency. This is something that can be encouraged weekly. Members of the Provincial Parliament could be encouraged to do the same. Public Service Announcements can be used on radios, TVs, and on social media platforms (Instagram, Social Media, Whats App etc.).
In these times of uncertainty, we should not be thinking about ways to put people in debt and fostering potential discriminatory practices, we should be thinking about ways to collaborate with residents, community organizations, and all levels of government.