Corp Comm Connects

'Shocked, embarrassed and scared': Aurora mom shaken by coronavirus ticket

Some bylaw officers might be 'overzealous,' Premier Doug Ford says
May 1, 2020
Lisa Queen

An Aurora mom who was ticketed $880 for “standing too long” in a park under emergency coronavirus restrictions while out with her teething baby and family dog in mid-April remains shaken by the incident.

“I feel paranoid and afraid to leave my house. I have lost sleep over this issue. My anxiety is running rampant. I am stressed and upset. I will be fighting the ticket,” said Roxana D., who did not want her last name published out of concern for her privacy and safety.

“I have been lucky enough to receive a wonderful response from many people who believe this case is ridiculous. I’ve been contacted by multiple legal professionals offering their help. My belief was that this was unjustified.”

Premier Doug Ford addressed the issue during his daily briefing April 29 when a reporter asked whether this and other incidents of Ontario residents being ticketed speaks to some bylaw officers being heavy-handed, even as protesters that the premier referred to as “yahoos” weren’t penalized for gathering at Queen’s Park last month.

“The police will determine if they're going to be ticketed or not. And sometimes you might get overzealous bylaw officers or police,” Ford said.

“But it's using good judgment. And I think the vast majority of our police use good judgment. I love our police, love our bylaw officers. Sounds like, you know, they could have maybe used a little bit of different judgment on those couple of calls. But again, they're doing an incredible, incredible job.”

Aurora has closed its parks during the coronavirus outbreak but people are allowed to use paths to walk through. While the town won’t comment on individual cases, it says it can issue fines starting at $880 under the Emergency Management and Civil Protecting Act to help flatten the COVID-19 curve.

“All municipal parks and facilities have clear and visible signage indicating closures and an education campaign about the closures and provincial orders was done,” the town said in an emailed statement, adding it has only charged 2 per cent of the more than 3,100 people it has interacted with under the coronavirus restrictions.

Roxana was walking in Edward Coltham Park, near Leslie Street at St. John’s Sideroad, with her baby and almost two-year-old Australian shepherd on the afternoon of April 18 when she saw three older residents “clearly not in the best physical condition” coming toward her.

Feeling it was her civic duty to physical distance to avoid potential transmission of COVID-19, Roxana said she stood under the edge of a stone gazebo adjacent to the pathway. Unlike the nearby playground, there is no caution tape around the gazebo.

While waiting for the others to pass, she answered a text on her phone.

Having grown up with a phone in her hand, Roxana said she can easily text while walking so didn’t pull under the gazebo specifically to use it.

“Once I looked up from my phone, I saw the pathway was clear and I started to pull out of the gazebo. As I did, a ‘Town of Aurora - Bylaw- Animal Control’ car, sped through the park,” she said in an email.

“I don’t know how he managed to get such a car into the park at such a high speed.”

The officer asked if she knew the parks were closed and she said she was aware of the restriction.

“However, I should make it abundantly clear, I did not physically use any amenities. I merely pulled into an open space to allow for proper physical distancing measures,” she said.

The officer explained the zero-tolerance policy, said he had observed her standing for more than two minutes and issued Roxana a ticket.

The incident left her feeling “shocked, embarrassed and scared.”

She would have “gladly” moved along if she had been given a warning.

With neighbouring Newmarket encouraging its residents to use parks as long as they don’t use park amenities such as picnic tables and benches as a way of getting exercise and promoting mental health, differing community rules are confusing, Roxana said.

Getting outside is important, she said.

“I am doing my absolute most to keep my mental health in a good place. It is incredibly hard. My baby is teething, my dog is not the type of dog that you can’t walk, he gets antsy indoors much like us people,” she said.

“We have family members who live a literal two-minute walk away and my child has not seen them in two months because we have been adhering to physical distancing rules. It’s a heartbreaking situation for many, many people. There is so much uncertainty and sometimes you need to decompress. I have been isolated, much like many people, from my extended family for weeks. I’m doing my best to keep my sanity during this entire situation. Also, giving this little bit of freedom to people will allow them to rejuvenate their ability to bear out the isolation for a longer period of time. Otherwise, isolation can feel like you’re being jailed.”