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Can kids stop and chat on a Toronto skating rink? City staff on what is -- and isn’t -- allowed under Ontario’s new stay-at-home order
Jan. 18, 2021
David Rider

As Torontonians parse Ontario’s new stay-at-home order and other lockdown measures, police and city staff are getting ready to enforce them.

The Star put situations to city staff in hopes the answers help readers understand the rules. Officials are asking Torontonians to honour the rules’ intent -- stay home as much as possible to limit deadly COVID-19 spread -- and those enforcing their application to use “discretion and a common sense approach.”

What if my kids are skating on a city rink and stop to talk to their friends? Is that allowed, should I break them up?

When, by coincidence, you encounter friends or family on an essential outing, wave and say hello from a safe two-metre distance. Schedule a virtual hangout or phone call for later on and continue on your way. Children and adults should not linger to chat and should always wear a mask when in public.

I want to get some non-essential things for my house and Walmart is open. If I go there and don’t buy groceries, do I risk a ticket?

As Toronto Police Service indicated, people will not be stopped and questioned about the purpose of an outing. The intent of the stay-at-home order, however, is to only go out for essential trips.

There are some natural neighbourhood ice rinks in the city where I’ve seen kids playing hockey with nets. Should I let my daughter join them?

No; for the duration of the stay-at-home order, children should only socialize in-person with members of their household.

The order says no gatherings of five people outside. But what if my family of six wants to go for a walk in the park, and stop and talk? Are we breaking the rules?

This is fine: members of a single household are permitted to go out for essential physical activity and fresh air together. Please respect the intention of the stay-at-home order and do not linger in public spaces unnecessarily. Wear a mask in public any time maintaining a physical distance of two metres from those outside your household is not possible.

A friend invited us to use her cabin out of town for the weekend. We wouldn’t be near other families and wouldn’t go into town. Is that allowed? Do we risk a ticket?

Under provincial regulations, people are to stay home except for essential trips. Please respect the stay-at-home order and do not travel unnecessarily. Only go out for essentials such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing the health-care system and for exercise or essential work.

Are we allowed to go out for only essential medical appointments? What if I have an appointment but could potentially put it off?

Appointments with registered health professionals are permitted. Go directly to the appointment and come directly home, wear a mask whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained, and wash or sanitize hands often. If the appointment is not critical to your health, consider rescheduling.

If a Toronto police officer stops me for speeding and I admit I’m just going for a drive, can I get a ticket for speeding and for a non-essential outing? Do I have to tell him or her where I’m going?

If you are speeding, an officer can issue a ticket for this offence. You do not need to disclose where you are going and officers will not issue a ticket for breaching the Emergency Order.

If I get a ticket for breaking an order, like being at an illegal party, can I fight it? Or do I have to pay it no matter what?

If you feel that you were wrongly ticketed, you have the option of requesting an early resolution meeting with a prosecutor and challenging it in court. Information on how to dispute a ticket is found on the COVID:19 Orders & Bylaws webpage.

Teens like to hang out together, no matter what we tell them. Do kids under 18 risk getting a ticket like adults who gather?

There is a clear public health directive and under the new provincial order to stay home. Toronto Public Health continues to urge all people, including teenagers, to avoid interacting with those outside their household. The virus relies on interactions between people, and the less we interact with those outside our household, the less likely the virus will continue to spread. Gathering in groups of more than five people outside is not permitted and the group will be dispersed and could be issued a ticket. Officers will use discretion and a common sense approach in all cases.