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Richmond Hill councillor allegedly broke quarantine after travelling from Aruba amid lockdown

Residents' group call for Tom Muench's resignation
Jan. 22, 2021
Sheila Wang

Richmond Hill Ward 2 Coun. Tom Muench allegedly broke quarantine and delivered “prizes” to two residents in person on New Year’s Eve after returning to Canada from Aruba, according to an anonymous source.

Shortly after Muench admitted to travelling abroad during the lockdown period, multiple sources reached out to the Liberal and said the councillor went to Aruba -- a popular Caribbean vacation destination -- in December.

The councillor previously said he travelled “for health reasons” without disclosing where he went and how long he had stayed despite repeated media requests.

The source revealed that Muench returned to Canada on Dec. 30 and was supposed to quarantine for two weeks.

However, the councillor allegedly broke his quarantine the next day by going out of his house and personally delivering laptops as prizes to two winners of a virtual trivia event he hosted earlier that day.

Unlike his first virtual trivia event on Dec. 6, which was promoted on his social media platforms and through posters in the community, the councillor’s New Year’s Eve event wasn't widely publicized, and the video has been removed from YouTube.

Under the Quarantine Act, both Canadians and foreigners entering Canada must quarantine for 14 days unless they get a special exemption. The maximum penalties include a fine of up to $750,000 and/or imprisonment for six months.

In an earlier email response, Muench said he adhered to “all applicable COVID-19 travel regulations and requirements.”

When the Liberal asked him if he had complied with the 14-day quarantine rules, the councillor did not respond.

It is unclear whether the councillor has been penalized for the alleged violation.

York Regional Police, who are in charge of enforcing the Quarantine Act, said there has been only one charge laid in relation to violation of the act in the region so far, according to York Regional Police spokesperson Laura Nicolle.

The charge was laid in November, she said.

Dr. Karim Kurji, the region's medical officer of health, said earlier this month that travel has been linked to many COVID-19 cases, and there is evidence that travellers are not complying with the quarantine rules.

In a press release issued by the Public Health Agency of Canada on Dec. 29, a total of 130 tickets and eight charges have been issued to travellers who broke travel requirements since mid-March in the country.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford complained publicly in September that not enough people were being punished for breaching the act.

Several Richmond Hill residents wrote to the Liberal after learning of Muench’s trip abroad.

“Too many public figures have not been honest until caught in a lie. You owe the people paying your salary this. We are the ones staying home doing our part trying to end this pandemic,” resident Joan Engel said.

Some have called for Muench's resignation, including a local residents’ group called the Council Accountability Group (CAG).

“Tom Muench needs to be held up as an example --If you seek public office, you need to expect to be held to a higher level of accountability. He should take responsibility for his irresponsible behaviour during this pandemic and resign.”

Mayor Dave Barrow and Deputy Mayors Joe DiPaola and Carmine Perrelli did not respond to requests for comment.