The City of Ottawa’s Bylaw Enforcement Department recently released a clarification following a news report that a man in Orléans had been issued a $700 ticket for “playing soccer with his son in an empty field.” The clarification said that the man had only been issued a “verbal warning” for playing soccer with his son and would not be facing any charges.
Other headlines for reports of people being penalized for not complying with self-isolation restrictions include:
- Ottawa man fined $880 for walking dog through local park during COVID-19 restrictions;
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, a quick ‘Happy Birthday’ tune can turn into a $1,546 fine; and
- Governments threaten fines, arrest, if people refuse to follow orders to isolate and social distance.
These reports raise for consideration the issue of the precise rules and restrictions in place and the possible interpretation of them.
The rules and restrictions in force in response to COVID-19 can be found on The City of Ottawa’s website . The website indicates that bylaw officers have been authorized to enforce Ontario’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. The closure of “outdoor recreational amenities that are intended for use by more than one family” is mandated by Regulation 104/20, made under that Act. “Outdoor recreational amenities” are defined as:
- All outdoor playgrounds, play structures and equipment.
- All outdoor sports facilities and multi-use fields, including,
- baseball diamonds,
- soccer fields,
- Frisbee golf locations,tennis, platform tennis, table tennis and pickleball courts,
- basketball courts,
- BMX parks, and
- skate parks.
- All off-lease dog areas.
- All portions of park and recreational areas containing outdoor fitness equipment.
- All outdoor allotment gardens and community gardens.
- All outdoor picnic sites, benches and shelters in park and recreational areas.
This is a very comprehensive list of facilities. It is not however a list of activities that might take place at, or on, those facilities. The restriction on activities is found in other sections of the regulation:
(2) Outdoor recreational amenities that are intended for use by more than one family are closed, regardless of whether they are publicly or privately owned and regardless of whether they are attached to a park system. (Emphasis added.)
(3) No person shall enter or use an outdoor recreational amenity described in subsection (2) except for a maintenance, safety, law enforcement or other similar purpose. (Emphasis added.)
(4) For greater certainty, nothing in this Order precludes individuals from walking through or using portions of park and recreational areas that are not otherwise closed and that do not contain an outdoor recreational amenity described in subsection (2). (Emphasis added.)
A careful reading of the regulations confirms that there is nothing prohibiting single family activities in parks or recreational areas that are not closed.
So, whenever you step outside, understand where you can and cannot go, what you can and cannot do, and practice physical distancing. Stay safe, Ottawa!