Open Letter to Premier Ford RE: Expanded Police Powers, Impacts to BIPOC's, and Closure of Park Amenities
April 23, 2021
Premier Doug Ford
Toronto ON M7A 1A1
Dear Premier Ford,
We are writing with regard to the expansion of police powers issued on April 16, 2021 and Ontario Regulation made under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, Amending O. Reg. 82/20 to express our deep opposition. The organizations included in this letter are deeply concerned with the focus on criminalizing and discouraging use of outdoor public spaces, particularly as it impacts marginalized people.
We therefore ask that you:
Do not restrict outdoor movement unless recommended in accordance with Public Health guidelines. We support the scientific evidence. We support keeping parks open and permitting all outdoor activities that adhere to Public Health recommendations for maintaining physical distance. We urge you to communicate that these are safe activities as long as they are not proven to result in increased transmission of coronavirus. As COVID-19 and variant cases continue to rise, people need opportunities and space to exercise and the safety to take essential trips without fear of being penalized for doing so. Do not criminalize the use of public space.
Rescind all of the newly-granted police powers. Although some of the new police powers have since been walked back, there are still others outstanding, such as allowing police to stop or question people if they have a “reason to suspect” gathering, which the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) and Black legal organizations have described as too vague and discriminatory. These expanded police powers will not reduce the spread of COVID-19 and will endanger Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) residents and homeless residents. The expanded police powers should not be reintroduced. In Gravenhurst, police officers were filmed pushing and assaulting a young boy for riding his scooter in a skate park. This incident demonstrates the capacity for harm resulting from the expanded police powers.
Focus preventative measures primarily on evidence of where transmission is occuring: workplaces and indoor spaces. Focus efforts as recommended by scientists and doctors, e.g., such as ensuring that workplaces with known COVID-19 cases are shut down per public health guidelines.
Dr. Samantha Green, a family physician and co-founder of Doctors For Safe Cycling, recommends: "paid sick days, closure of unsafe work environments, closure of what is truly non-essential, and targeted vaccine distribution to essential workers and high risk/marginalized communities as the real solutions that will reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep vulnerable and marginalized populations safe and healthy."
We understand that on April 22, 2021, Premier Ford has committed to bringing forward a provincial paid sick day program. We urge the government to do this quickly and robustly so that vulnerable workers are protected. It is imperative that Ontario follow the lead of Peel and Toronto public health units, and ensure that workplaces with known COVID-19 cases are shut down per public health guidelines.
Paid sick days, closure of unsafe work environments, closure of what is truly non-essential, and targeted vaccine distribution to essential workers and high risk/marginalized communities as the real solutions that will reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep vulnerable and marginalized populations safe and healthy. These measures are in line with recommendations from Ontario's COVID-19 Science Table.
Do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.
Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services
Anne Harris, Epidemiologist (Associate Professor, School of Occupational and Public Health, Ryerson University)
Beth Savan Ph.D., Senior Lecturer Emeritus, University of Toronto
Dave Shellnutt, The Biking Lawyer LLP
Doctors for Safe Cycling
Friends and Families for Safe Streets
Gateway Bicycle Hub
Green Communities Canada
Patrick Brown, LLP, Bike Law Canada
SaxeFacts Law Professional Corporation
Scarborough Transit Action
Social Planning Toronto
Stuckless Consulting Inc.
The Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT)
Tony Lafazanis - Personal Injury Lawyer
Women's Cycling Network
If you are interested in adding your organization's name as a supporter, please email Tamara Nahal. More signatories will be added as they are received.
This letter has been updated with additional signatories.