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OPSEU/SEFPO questions Ontario government’s new enforcement measures

COVID-19
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Toronto – Today the Ontario government tightened restrictions on Ontarians and announced new and arbitrary police powers to detain, question and ticket citizens outside their homes, even those who don’t have one.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones announced new measures to enforce stay-at-home orders to curb rapidly escalating rates of COVID-19 in the province.

“Ontarians want to help in the fight against COVID-19, and the vast majority have been doing their utmost for over a year,” said OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

“People in this province, including thousands of OPSEU/SEFPO workers, have put themselves in harm’s way by providing frontline essential services,” said Thomas. “They have lost their livelihoods obeying lockdown measures; they saw their jobs gone and their businesses shuttered. Ontarians have lost friends and family members to this pandemic. They have stayed away from those that need them and love them for more than 12 months now. Ontarians want to see COVID-19 gone and will continue to do all they can to win the battle against this pandemic.

“OPSEU/SEFPO members put their lives at risk at hospitals, at vaccinations centres, at lab clinics, in schools, in jails and on the front lines in thousands of communities around the province, in order to do their duty by Ontarians. At OPSEU/SEFPO we’ve even offered our newly purchased and renovated building at 155 Lesmill free of charge as a vaccination centre. We all want to help because we are in this together. And the only way out is together through unity, not fear.

“But the enforcement orders announced by the government today are an overreach,” continued Thomas. “To give the police the right to stop and question citizens is akin to martial law. If improperly applied or perceived as being used to target, it will be remembered in history as carding on steroids. I am certain it is something police will not be happy about either.”

“This has the real potential of putting vulnerable populations, already the bigger victims of this pandemic in terms of case count, under higher vigilance,” said Peter Thompson, chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s Coalition of Racialized Workers. “Instead of being helped, they are being watched. What message are we sending vulnerable populations, already entangled by a trust deficit?”

“Instead of more vaccines, and more support, we are sending restrictions and police,” said OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida. “Serious illness and fear of death outweigh the consequences of a ticket any day of the week. These enforcement orders are putting the wrong resources on the ground: instead of vaccines, paid sick days, and supports, we get police, stay-at-home orders, and fines. This must not be the Ontario way.”

“This pandemic has become so hyper politicized with such conflicting rhetoric, folks don’t know who to believe,” said Thomas. “Only through cooperation, education, vaccine supply and uptake will we get to the other side of this nightmare. Policing and random checks on citizens won’t bring down COVID-19 numbers. Shots in the arms will.

“We urge the Premier to reconsider his options.”

For more information:  Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931