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What are the emergency rules in Ontario because of the COVID-19 pandemic?

What are the emergency rules in Ontario because of the COVID-19 pandemic?
May 28, 2020

On March 17, 2020, the Ontario government declared a state of emergency throughout the province in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The emergency rules have been extended to June 9. That date could change again.

The emergency rules give the government powers they don’t normally have. For example, the government passed laws that say during the state of emergency:

  • No gatherings of 5 people or more, unless you live with more than 5 people.
  • All recreational services such as playgrounds, basketball and tennis courts, condo parks and gardens are closed.
  • Any provincial offences officer may stop you and ask you to identify yourself if they have “reasonable and probable” grounds to believe you’re breaking an emergency order.

The government has published a list of essential workplaces. These businesses and organizations can be open while the emergency rules are in effect.

Plans to reopen

On March 24, 2020, non-essential services were ordered closed. Starting Tuesday May 19, 2020, some business and services are allowed to re-open. Examples include:

  • some medical facilities
  • construction sites
  • retail stores that have their own street front entrances
  • some outdoor recreational facilities (like tennis courts)

The government has published a list of these businesses and services that can re-open here.

Other businesses and organizations must stay closed, including:

  • daycares
  • concert venues
  • libraries, except to allow book pickups or delivery
  • most indoor recreation programs
  • private schools
  • movie theaters
  • bars and restaurants, except those that provide drive-thru, take-out, or delivery options


If you’re caught breaking the emergency rules, the police can charge you with one or more offences under the Provincial Offences Act. 

You may receive a ticket or summons to provincial offences court.

The minimum punishment for each provincial offence is a fine of $750, or $1,000 if you try to stop the officer from giving you or someone else a ticket. The maximum punishment for each offence is one year in jail, or a fine of up to $100,000.

Keep in mind that many municipalities have also passed their own by-laws with fines that may be different than the provincial amounts. 

If you continue to break the rules, you can be charged with a separate offence for each day that you didn’t follow the rules.

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