OCAP Denounces Expanded Police Powers: Overreach of Police Enforcement Will Not Solve the COVID Crisis.
Although the province has partially walked back it’s statement on empowering police to perform “random” street checks under the new covid restrictions, police powers to stop and question individuals have still increased under the guise of suspicion of participation in an organized public event or social gathering.
Any increased powers afforded to the police will be utilized to further harass and intimidate targeted individuals and communities with sanctioned impunity.
Doug Ford’s incompetence and negligence has resulted in a catastrophic rise in cases of COVID-19 resulting in the unnecessary illness and death of thousands of Ontario residents. Yet, the Ford government is determined to continue placing profits before people while refusing to enact public health measures which could aid in the reduction of Covid transmission and infections.
What we are seeing is the cumulative results of the Ford government failing to listen to health professionals and take the correct action necessary to curb the spread. In light of losing control of the situation, the Ford government has created more anxiety and confusion in the public leading them to misplace their fear and anger on individuals, instead of the factories, essential businesses, and congregate settings where the infection continues to run rampant because employees cannot properly isolate or take time off because they lack life-saving benefits and sick pay.
Restricting the basic rights and freedoms of residents is not going to improve this situation, it will only make matters worse. Police do not make communities safer, they serve to criminalize the poor, racialized and otherwise vulnerable and marginalized communities, including creating increased fear for those forced to be out on the streets, in transit, or unable to stay in one place during this time. Communities do not need more policing, they need labour protections and safe and adequate housing.
In order to avoid the inevitable abuse of police powers under the recent expansion of pandemic restrictions, we demand the Ford government immediately:
Remove the expanded overreach of police authority to stop, question, or card individuals under the new lockdown restrictions, regardless of supposed discretionary suspicion
Reallocate police resources to health and social services overburdened by the explosion of COVID cases
Implement permanent, seamless employer and provincially paid sick days for essential and vulnerable workers
Improve equitable vaccination availability and access in high-risk communities, including non status migrant and homeless populations
It is impossible to police ourselves out of this pandemic. Increasing punitive measures onto vulnerable and marginalized people will do nothing to improve public health outcomes. Shifting responsibility onto individuals without giving the necessary supports to follow public health guidelines is callous and offensive. The blame for the current state of public health lays firmly at the feet of the Ford government, not the people of Ontario.
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
April 19, 2021