Ontario Authorities Patrol Costco, Walmart to Enforce Masking, Distancing

A woman wearing a facemask walks past a sign informing customers that face coverings are required in front of a Walmart store in Washington, DC on July 15, 2020. - Walmart will require shoppers to wear face masks starting next week, the US retail giant announced on July 15, joining …

Ontario issued dozens of fines to large retailers and their customers — $1,000 and $750 (CAD), respectively — over recent weeks as part of its “big-box store blitz” to enforce compliance with mask-wearing and social distancing decrees, ostensibly issued as public health protection measures.

The province deployed about 50 “inspectors” from its Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development — in addition to local bylaw and police officers — to retailers such as Costco, Loblaws, and Walmart. Dozens of fines have been issued in recent weeks to both patrons and businesses for violations of what Ontario deems “COVID-19 health and safety requirements.”

CTV News reported on escalation of punishment — including fines and imprisonment — for “more serious” violations of the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act:

The government said if a violation is more serious, a person can be charged with failing to comply with an order. If convicted, the court can impose fines as high as $100,000 for individuals, and directors and officers of a corporation can be fined up to $500,000. Both could also receive terms of imprisonment of up to one year.

A resident of Ottawa, ON, told Breitbart News that two local police officers were patrolling a Costco over the weekend to enforce compliance with mask-wearing and distancing edicts. Costco’s customers were forced to wait outside in freezing winter temperatures in order to comply with imposed capacity limits, presumably to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Breitbart News was told that Costco customers were advised by company staff that police officers were patrolling the store to enforce mask-wearing and distancing mandates among patrons.

CTV News reported that 24 fines were issued to businesses in Ottawa over the weekend. “The most common infractions were for inadequate screening, exceeding capacity limits, and lacking a COVID-19 safety plan,” it wrote.

Nine people were fined by Ottawa bylaw officers for not wearing masks as part of Ontario’s “big-box store blitz” this past weekend. Two warnings were issued to businesses with insufficient hand sanitizer at entrances.

In the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, 240 big-box stores were patrolled by “ministry inspectors” and local authorities.

Ontario characterizes its issuance of fines and warnings as an endeavor “to protect workers in response to rising COVID-19 cases.” The province claimed:

The blitz will focus on ensuring workers and patrons are wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and following every health and safety measure. Workplace health and safety inspectors will have the authority to ticket supervisors, employees and patrons who do not comply with COVID-19 safety requirements, temporarily close a premise and disperse groups of more than five people.

“We know most businesses are operating responsibly and taking the necessary steps to protect their workers and customers, and I want to thank them for their efforts,” said Minister McNaughton. “Where we find an employer who has been acting in bad faith, we won’t hesitate to take action by immediately slapping them with a ticket and a fine. There will be real consequences for those who break the rules.”

Ontario added the following warning under a “Quick Facts” section of its press release:

  • Individuals and businesses who are not following the rules can be fined. The set fines are:
    • $750 for not following the rules;
    • $1,000 for preventing others (including employees or other workers) from following the rules.
  • Maximum fines can be up to $100,000 for individuals and $10 million for a corporation.
  • Failure to follow the rules could also result in prosecution or even a year in jail.

Ontario offers posters for businesses to display for their employees, including a “break poster,” “lunch poster,” and “keep it to yourself poster.”

Ontario’s “lunch poster” states:

Keep it up at work…be COVID SAFE!
· Eat at a safe distance from others
· Finish eating and put your mask back on to socialize
· Go separately to pick up food

Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development claimed to have inspected over 23,000 workplaces since it began conducting such inspections.


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