Many residents locally express increasing concerns about and rightfully question what enforcement measures are being taken, for example, to:

[1] force returning travelers, who are not taking precautionary virus measures, to self-isolate; and

[2] ensure compliance generally with other emergency health declarations and orders in effect by the provincial and federal Governments, applying to everyone during this pandemic.


To date, federally, the following orders have been made, with the corresponding enforcement measures being taken by the federal Government:


There is now a federal Emergency Order in effect, requiring any person entering Canada by air, sea or land to self-isolate for fourteen days, whether or not they have symptoms of COVID-19. The Government of Canada will use its authority under the federal Quarantine Act to ensure compliance with the order. Failure to comply with this Order is an offense under the Quarantine Act.

Maximum penalties for non-compliance include:

– a fine of up to $750,000; and/or
– imprisonment for six months.


In addition, for everyone, any person who causes a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person while wilfully or recklessly contravening the Quarantine Act could be liable for:

– a fine of up to $1,000,000; or
– imprisonment of up to three years, or to both.

Spot checks will be conducted by the Government of Canada to verify compliance.

All individuals permitted to enter Canada are subject to this order, with the exception of certain persons who cross the border regularly to ensure the continued flow of goods and services, and those who provide essential services. Individuals exempt from the order will still need to practice social distancing and self monitoring and contact their local public health authority if they feel sick.

Individuals displaying symptoms of COVID-19 after arriving in Canada may not use public transportation to travel to their place of isolation. They also may not isolate in a place where they will be in contact with vulnerable people, such as seniors and individuals with underlying health conditions.

Since 2005, we have had the Quarantine Act available to require and govern preventative measures due to pandemic, like COVID-19, including mandatory self-isolation and quarantine and enforcement measures. The federal Health Minister is also statutorily empowered to require Ontario to take quarantine measures, including stay-at-home orders, closure of non-essential businesses and to establish self-isolation/quarantine facilities for those who do not comply.

Notably the federal Government has yet to enact the Emergencies Act, which would give it sweeping, broad powers to centrally control virus containment enforcement across the country. Many continue to question this decision, but if the so-called curve does not flatten fairly soon, it is expected the federal Government will also take this extraordinary “war times” measure.   


The Government of Ontario has so far announced, for example, a $750 fine for failing to comply with a provincial order, including an emergency health declaration. There are additional fines that could be levied for obstructing a person ($1,000). Corporations can face much higher fines for non-compliance with Ontario’s emergency health orders, such as being closed if not classified as an essential service (up to $500,000). 

The Ontario Provincial Police have announced they will enforce any provincial health orders, such as closing non-essential businesses and maximum gathering capacity. They also report they will, under Ontario’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, continue to strictly enforce any further health emergency declarations by the federal and provincial government.

It is unclear how much enforcement has been undertaken by the OPP to date. It does not appear there have been any imprisonments, at least. 


There is no consistent, unified approach among municipalities, or their municipal police services.

Few municipalities seem to be taking pro-active, decisive and independent enforcement measures. Others, such as the City of Toronto, have announced very significant fines and imprisonment terms for those who violate provincial orders. That city continues to set up its enforcement team, led by Toronto Public Health. Non-compliance will escalate to the Toronto Police service, if necessary.

The City of Kawartha Lakes, which has authority to establish its own enforcement measures, as it has officially declared a state of emergency, has yet to adopt or implement any specific enforcement measures for non-compliance with either provincial or federal orders. As it stands, the Lindsay Police Service, for example, working with both our Health Unit and the City, will rely on Canada’s Criminal Code, existing governmental orders and municipal licensing standards to enforce safety and containment measures.

Municipally-driven enforcement measures are ostensibly piecemeal and uncoordinated. Some municipalities, particularly those more urbanized, are doing more than others.

As a result, there is an increasing call throughout Ontario, and other provinces, for the federal Government to enact the Emergencies Act, including to centralize and directly control a country-wide standard for enforcement measures in an effort to contain the virus. 

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