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RCMP says it will enforce the Quarantine Act if people don’t self isolate

Political leaders continue to stress social distancing must remain in place for the forseeable future.

April 13, 2020   by Holly McKenzie-Sutter

OTTAWA — The RCMP is warning people they will do physical checks to enforce the Quarantine Act, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has hinted that rules could be loosened this summer if Canadians act now to contain the spread of COVID-19.

But political leaders continue to stress social distancing must remain in place for the forseeable future as the country continues to grapple with major problems with the most vulnerable at long-term care homes.

More than 22,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Canada, with the death count now topping 560.

The police force says it has been asked to assist in enforcing the act in the midst of the pandemic. Officers could visit homes to ensure anyone entering Canada is self-isolating for 14 days, and police can now make arrests, rather than issue a court appearance notice or summons.

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The RCMP says arrests under the act, violations of which could include a fine of up to $750,000 and imprisonment for six months, will be a last resort.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief medical officer, said the move gives officials “the range of tools that might be needed” at this stage of the crisis.

“Of course, we’re asking everyone that when you’re issued an order from the federal government on the Quarantine Act, we expect that to be followed. We are contacting people. And for the majority of the time, you can find them in their rightful place,” Tam said.

“The Quarantine Act has very powerful penalties. You want to make sure fair warning’s given, education’s given and calibrate what you may want to apply to a particular person not following the Quarantine Act.”

Trudeau said he is not planning to invoke the Emergencies Act, which would give the federal government sweeping powers normally reserved for provinces and territories.

The Emergencies Act, which replaced the War Measures Act in 1988, never has been used.

“If we do things right, this will be the first and worst phase that we go through as a country in terms of COVID-19,” Trudeau said.

“It is possible we may be out of that wave this summer, and at that point we will be able to talk about loosening up some the rules that are in place.”

He said some people may be able to return to work to “get things rolling again,” though those changes will require a cautious approach.