Police forces step up social distancing enforcement

By Gordon Lambie

Last week Premier Francois Legault called on police forces across the province to be less lenient on people disregarding social distancing directives last week and although people in the region are generally seen to be following the rules, a number of fines were given out over the weekend and in the early days of this week.
Aurelie Guindon of the Sûreté du Québec told The Record that there are no specific numbers for one region over another, but that 157 such fines have been issued by the SQ across the province to date.
In Sherbrooke, communications officer Martin Carrier said that the number has surpassed 15, although he wouldn’t comment on whether there are particular areas of the city or forms of gathering that have proven problematic.
Sylvain Guay of the Régie De Police De Memphrémagog said that, so far, no fines have been issued in his jurisdiction because of the fact that they needed to be processed by the office of the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions in Montreal. That is about to change, however, as the Police were just given leave to start issuing fines that do not require that additional step.
Guay also pointed out that although the fees are being talked about as starting at from $1,000, the baseline figure including associated fees actually brings that number up to over $1,500.
The City of Sherbrooke issued a notice on Tuesday clarifying the fineable offences related to COVID-19. A fine of $1,000 for a first offence and $2,000 for any successive infractions will be issued to anyone who:
• enters a municipal building that has been declared closed to the public by either a sign or a verbal warning associated with the current state of emergency,
• interferes with the work of a municipal employee doing work related to the current state of emergency,
• pretends to have COVID-19 or fakes symptoms,
• engages in any activity in a work environment except as exempted by the provincial government,
• gathers with others inside or outside except as exempted by the provincial government,
• holds an activity in any space dedicated to hosting the public for cultural, educational, sports or recreation purposes,
• holds an activity in a bar, club, restaurant with a buffet or sugar shack except in the case of drive-through services, pick-up or delivery,
• operates any commercial business on Sundays, except those permitted by the Provincial government,
• goes to any tourist establishment outside of the circumstances provided for by the Provincial Government.
The fines double in the case they are given to place of business rather than an individual.
“These new measures will certainly ease the work of our police officers, who have been working under very difficult circumstances for several weeks,” said Danielle Berthold, chair of the city’s public security committee.

Published in the Thursday, April 9 edition of The Record.

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