Province lowers limits for gatherings in Ottawa, Peel, Toronto Regions

Ontario also introduces legislation to increase fines for non-compliance across the province

TORONTO – Wellington County residents won’t be impacted by new lower limits on social gatherings imposed by the province, but they will be subject to stiffer penalties for breaking the rules in this region.

On Sept. 17, in response to recent increases in COVID-19 cases, the province lowered the gathering limit in certain areas from 50 to 10 for indoor events and from 100 to 25 for outdoor events.

The new rules, effective Sept. 18, affect public health units in the Ottawa, Peel and Toronto regions.

They apply to unmonitored social gatherings and events such as parties, dinners, barbecues or wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, parks and other recreational areas.

“We have been working hand-in-hand with our medical officials and our mayors to try and slow down and limit new cases in the regions with the highest rates of transmission,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

“This targeted action is in direct response to the latest data, which tells us that increased cases are the result of private and social gatherings.

“By limiting the number of people permitted at a social gathering in these regions, we will reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep people safe.”

The new limits do not apply to bars, restaurants, cinemas, convention centres or banquet halls, gyms, and recreational sporting or performing art events.

Increased fines

Also on Sept. 17, the province introduced amendments to the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act that would increase fines for non-compliance across the province.

Officials say the legislation aims to “support better compliance with public health guidelines.”

If passed, the amendments will:

  • make it an offence to host/organize a gathering, in a house or elsewhere, that exceeds regional attendance limits;
  • introduce a minimum fine of $10,000 for organizers of these gatherings;
  • create authority for the Lieutenant Governor in Council to add additional types of premises to the legislation;
  • allow a police officer, special constable or First Nations constable to temporarily close the site of gatherings that exceed the regional limit and to require individuals to leave the premises.

Officials say the new compliance measures are “the most stringent in all of Canada.”

“We are determined to take decisive action to protect Ontario’s recovery and keep people safe across our province,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.

“With the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, a continued agile and proactive response to the evolving public health situation is vitally important.

Jones added, “While most Ontarians are following provincial orders and public health guidelines, those caught breaking the rules will now face stiffer penalties.”