The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how Hawkesbury’s municipal by-law officers do their work. The officers have been acting in an educational role, rather than an enforcement role when it comes to the various public health rules. For example, officers have been informing groups of people not physically distancing to disperse. The police get involved if there are further difficulties.
According to a recent report to council from Hawkesbury Clerk Christine Groulx, whose department is responsible for by-law enforcement, officers are continuing their educational role as more businesses and services reopen and the general deconfinement unfolds.
“It’s shocking, the number of people and business owners who do not know the province’s and the health bureau’s (Eastern Ontario Health Unit) health and safety measures for employees and customers,” stated Groulx.
Deconfinement has also led to an increased number of non-COVID-19 related complaints, including barking dogs and loud neighbours. “People’s tolerance has plateaued,” Groulx wrote.
The report noted that the department has also been receiving many unusual calls that are unrelated to its activities. Those include inquiries about government grants for farmers, complaints from citizens who live in other municipalities, and questions about child visitation rights from divorced parents.
The by-law enforcement department is required by the Ministry of the Solicitor General to send in weekly reports on the interventions by-law officers have made due to violations of various COVID-19-related emergency orders. Reportable violations include retailers unnecessarily increasing prices on essential products, gatherings of more than the allowed number of people, long-term care facility employees who work at more than one facility, and retail outlets where the required health and safety precautions have not been taken.
Groulx’s report did not contain statistics on the number of COVID-19 related interventions by-law officers in Hawkesbury have recently made, nor did it contain other statistics on other enforcement activities. However, the report did state that the information will be presented at a future date.