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Numerous exceptions detailed in Ontario stay-at-home order, as province issues eviction ban

Thursday, January 14, 2021 @ 5:04 PM | By John Schofield

Ontario’s freshly minted stay-at-home order lists more than 20 reasons why residents of the province may leave their homes.

Officially approved and ordered at 5:56 p.m. on Jan. 13, Ontario regulation 11/21, made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA), came into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 14.

Permitted reasons for leaving one’s residence are listed under eight categories: work, school and childcare; obtaining goods and services; assisting others; health, safety and legal purposes; multiple residences and moving; travel; gatherings; and animals. The regulation makes reference several times to “Stage 1 Order,” which refers to Ontario regulation 82/20 (Rules for Areas in Stage 1) made under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020.

Under the work and school category, the regulation allows employers to decide if the employee must attend the place of work.

Individuals are permitted to leave home to pick up goods or services or to keep appointments at any business or organization that is allowed to remain open under the Stage 1 order, including for curbside pickup. The listed goods and services include food, beverages, personal care items, medications, health-care services, financial services, social services and supports, mental health and addiction services, and any service required to maintain the safe operation of a home, business or transportation.

“Assisting others” includes making deliveries to provide care and support to a person who needs it, taking a child to the child’s parent or guardian, or taking a member of the household to anywhere he or she is allowed to go under the order.

Individuals are allowed to leave their homes to avoid “imminent risk” to their health and safety, including protecting oneself or others from domestic violence, assisting someone in leaving unsafe living conditions, or seeking emergency assistance.

Exercise is also a permitted reason for leaving a residence, including walking or going to an outdoor recreational facility that is allowed to be open under the Stage 1 order.

The government has also given the green light to attending a place in connection with the administration of justice or as required by law, or to exercise an Aboriginal or treaty right as recognized under s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Individuals may also go to another residence if they plan to be there for less than 24 hours for one of the purposes included in the order or they intend to reside there for at least 14 days. People are also allowed to travel between residences if they are moving, arranging to buy or sell a residence, making arrangements to begin or end a residential lease, or to travel between the homes of parents, guardians or caregivers if an individual is under their care.

Travelling to a bus station, train station or airport is also OK if the person is going somewhere outside of Ontario. Stepping out to attend or make arrangements for a wedding, funeral or religious service is also allowed if that gathering is permitted under the Stage 1 order. The order stipulates that no gatherings of any kind are allowed if prohibited under the Stage 1 order.

Under the animals category, permitted reasons for leaving the house include walking an animal, buying food or supplies, going to the vet or anything intended to save the animal from an imminent risk to its health or safety.

The order specifically states that it does not apply to those who are homeless. And once an individual has left the house, the order also permits them to return home from their destination.

According to news reports, a government memo sent to Ontario police chiefs Jan. 13 stipulates that police officers may not stop cars only to check compliance with the stay-at-home order, and individuals are not required to explain why they are outside.

In a Jan. 14 news release, the Ontario government also announced an emergency order to temporarily pause the enforcement of residential evictions during the provincial declaration of emergency and stay-at-home-order.

“Our government will ensure that residential evictions continue to be paused for the remainder of the state of emergency, as long as it lasts,” said Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark.

But Suze Morrison, tenants’ rights critic for the Official Opposition NDP, said the government’s pause on residential evictions still leaves people vulnerable to being forced out of their homes during the pandemic due to overly broad exceptions.

“(Premier) Doug Ford has baked in loopholes you could drive a truck through, allowing any evictions to continue at the discretion of the Landlord and Tenant Board,” she said in a Jan. 14 news release. “His government needs to stop putting out contradictory information and unequivocally ban evictions — that means a moratorium on all eviction notices, hearings and orders, as well as the suspension of eviction enforcement by the sheriff for the entire duration of the pandemic.”

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