“No, not really,” said Mayor Guy Desjardins during a phone interview today (April 22).
The official declaration of a health state of emergency took place April 21. Mayor Desjardins described it as “an administrative measure” following up on last week’s announcement by Ontario Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark under the provincial Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.
“Our idea was to take some of our volunteer firefighters and make them temporary bylaw officers,” said Mayor Desjardins, “to help assist our four full-time bylaw officers, especially over the weekends.”
But, the mayor noted, the city needed to declare an official state of emergency under the provincial regulation to reassign any of its municipal staff to other specific emergency-related duties.
Under the provincial health emergency state situation, municipal bylaw officers have the same authority as police officers to enforce the pandemic prevention and protection plan guidelines regarding social distancing, no gatherings of more than five people, and public closure of any non-essential business to reduce the risk of COVID-19 contagion. Police and bylaw officers have a choice of warning people about violations or issuing tickets, which could mean fines.
Mayor Desjardins noted that Clarence-Rockland’s four bylaw officers have had a lot of extra calls to deal with since the pandemic situation began and drafting members of the fire department’s volunteer roster to assist will help ease the workload.
“So far there’s been no fines given out,” he said. “Only warnings, and that’s how we’d like to keep it. People have been very good about things like social distancing and such.”