CCLA and our co-authors, Policing and the Pandemic Mapping Project (PPMP), obtained comprehensive data from five jurisdictions: British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. The data shows that reliance on punitive fines increased in most jurisdictions that were studied. Quebec and Manitoba were the most punitive of the five jurisdictions, where detailed enforcement statistics were available.
A quick summary of the data in each jurisdiction is available in our fact sheet, By the Numbers: The Second Wave of COVID-19 Law Enforcement in Canada.
We know that punitive law enforcement measures tend to disproportionately harm Black people and members of other racialized communities that are already subject to disproportionate and harmful policing practices. This also includes Indigenous persons and those experiencing homelessness, mental health challenges, and addiction. In our June 2020 report on COVID-19 and law enforcement, Stay off the Grass, we highlighted numerous concerning incidents of COVID-related stops and ticketing related by racialized individuals, recent immigrants, same sex couples, elderly people, and persons experiencing homelessness.
Relying heavily on punitive fines and policing is also of questionable efficacy from a public health perspective. Trying to punish people into complying with broad, confusing and vague laws are unlikely to have any meaningful impact on behaviour and tends to push marginalized populations further from the services and supports that they need.
As Canadian governments move to tackle a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, we urge them to remain focused on evidence-based public health policy interventions, such as community supports, paid sick leave, and education, instead of punitive enforcement measures. We cannot police our way out of this pandemic