On April 16, 2021, the Ontario government announced that it would extend the provincial declaration of emergency and the province-wide stay-at-home order, and would implement additional and amended measures in response to the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following this latest extension, the emergency and the stay-at-home order will remain in effect until at least May 20, 2021. Additionally, the government has amended regulations under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 [ROA] and enacted new orders under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act [EMCPA] to impose new and revised public health measures and restrictions.
We have outlined key changes of interest to employers below.
The government issued Ontario Regulation 293/21: Persons Entering Ontario from Quebec or Manitoba (the “Travel Regulation”),made under the EMCPA, to restrict travel into Ontario from Manitoba and Quebec unless the travel is related to certain purposes such as work, health care services, transportation, and delivery of goods and services.
Groups exempt from the travel restrictions set out in the Travel Regulation include, but are not limited to:
- Principal residents:
- people whose principal residence is in Ontario;
- people who are moving to Ontario in order to make their principal residence in Ontario;
- people travelling through Ontario without unnecessary stops to reach their principal residence in another jurisdiction;
- people travelling into or through Ontario by means of an international or interprovincial bus, train, ferry, or flight;
- people travelling to perform work in Ontario;
- Transportation and delivery of goods:
- people transporting goods into or through Ontario as part of the operation of a business that involves the transportation of goods;
- Health care services:
- people whose health makes it necessary to travel into Ontario to obtain health care or social services;
- people travelling in a vehicle that is transporting or that will transport a person in Ontario to or from a hospital or health care facility in Manitoba or Quebec; and
- people being transported from a hospital or health care facility in Manitoba or Quebec.
Police officers and other enforcement officials may enforce these restrictions by requesting identification and documentation, and by asking questions of travellers. They may also direct a traveller to return to Manitoba or Quebec, as applicable, if the officer or official reasonably believes that the person is contravening the travel restriction.
The Travel Regulation came into effect on April 19, 2021.
Additional Public Health and Workplace Safety Measures
On April 17, 2021, the following public health and workplace safety measures came into effect:
- Outdoor gatherings: prohibition against all outdoor social gatherings and organized public events, except for with members of the same household or one other person from outside that household who lives alone or a caregiver for any member of the household;
- Outdoor amenities: closure of all outdoor recreational amenities, such as golf courses, basketball courts, and soccer fields, with certain exceptions;
- Construction: closure of all non-essential workplaces in the construction sector; and
- Retail: reduction of capacity limits to 25% in all retail settings where in-store shopping is permitted. This includes supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers’ markets, other stores that primarily sell food, and pharmacies.
In addition, effective April 19, 2021, the government reduced the capacity limit of weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites or ceremonies to 10 people indoors or outdoors. Social gatherings associated with these services such as receptions are prohibited, except for with members of the same household or one other person from outside that household who lives alone. Drive-in services will be permitted, subject to certain restrictions.
All previously announced public health and workplace safety measures for non-essential retail will continue to apply. This means that most retailers may open for curbside pick-up and delivery services only (for more information on these measures, please see our previous blog).
Increased Enforcement Powers for Police Officers and Other Provincial Offences Officers
Between April 16 to April 17, 2021, the province twice amended Ontario Regulation 8/21: Enforcement of COVID-19 Measures (the “Enforcement Regulation”), made under the EMCPA, to grant police officers and other provincial offences officers enhanced powers to enforce the stay-at-home order.
On April 16, 2021, the province filed amendments to the Enforcement Regulation which would authorize police officers and other provincial offences officers to require any individual to provide their home address and purpose for not being at their residence. In addition, police officers, special constables and First Nation Constables were granted the authority to stop vehicles to inquire about an individual’s reasons for leaving their home.
On April 17, 2021, following backlash from Ontarians, the province filed amendments to the Enforcement Regulation to limit the new enforcement powers. Under the most recently amended Enforcement Regulation, where a police officer or provincial offences officer has reason to suspect that a person may be participating in a gathering that violates the ROA and they believe that it is in the public interest to determine whether this is the case, they may require that person to provide information for the purpose of determining this. These amendments also came into effect on April 17, 2021.
During the announcement on April 16, 2021, Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development announced that the province will launch an enhanced, targeted province-wide inspection campaign of construction sites, as well as various other workplaces in the COVID-19 hotspots of Ottawa, Toronto, and York Region.
The Minister also emphasized that employees who can work from home must stay home. To ensure that only essential workers are present in the building, provincial offences officers will make visits to offices, including law offices and accounting firms.
As always, we will continue tracking new COVID-19 related developments affecting employers and will post further updates as they become available to keep you In the Know.
This blog is provided as an information service and summary of workplace legal issues.
This information is not intended as legal advice.