York Region has stepped up its efforts to close a Newmarket business that has vowed to continue its "civil disobedience" against lockdown restrictions on non-essential businesses.
This is the second time in just over a week that Point of Light, Body, Mind, Spirit Store and Centre has been fined for refusing to close for in-person shopping. The first time, bylaw officers gave the new age store a charged totalling $880, but this time inspectors from York Region Public Health are taking a hard line.
"Point of Light, Body, Mind, Spirit Store and Centre has repeatedly failed to comply with the provincial Reopening Ontario Act," said regional spokesperson Patrick Casey. "York Region Public Health inspectors and Newmarket bylaw have visited this business on a number of occasions and have laid charges against the operator."
"Issuing this order is a further step in a series of enhanced measures put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 in York Region," he added.
The store at 16635 Yonge St., unit 9, now faces a fine of up to $5,000 for every day it refuses to remain closed to indoor shopping until authorized to reopen.
The store's owners, Barbara Bushe and Karthik Raj, have taken a public stand against lockdown requirements, starting with a defiant email sent to municipal leaders, public health officials and media on Dec. 10 decrying calls for more restrictions from local hospital executives.
Bushe said she feels it is important that they speak out against measures they see as unfair and illegal.
"Our stand is an act of civil disobedience. This is of our way of bringing to light what we believe are unfair and arbitrary lockdown measures, that are causing great harm and collateral damage to small businesses and our community at large," she wrote in a statement to NewmarketToday.
"We strongly believe that these measures violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of all Canadians, and are therefore unconstitutional."
Bushe pointed to statements made by public health officials, including York Region medical officer of health Dr. Karim Kurji, saying that retail stores are not a significant source of COVID-19 outbreaks.
"How can it be then, that every business of this type must be closed? It makes no sense," she wrote.
"Finally, we would like to add that we have continuously complied with all the safety measures as stated by York Region and continue to do so."
After the store was given its first fine in late December, it closed briefly before announcing its intention on Facebook to reopen on Jan. 4.
Followers of its Facebook page left comments both praising the owners for taking a stand and condemning them for being irresponsible.
"You are not an essential service. Shame on you for putting my community at risk," wrote Christine Thompson.
York Region Public Health has issued an order to Point of Light under Sec. 22 of the Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act that states it must:
- Immediately close the premises for carrying on business and keep it closed for in-person shopping until authorized to re-open;
- Ensure compliance with all applicable legal requirements;
- Ensure compliance with all applicable York Region Public Health guidance pertaining to COVID-19.
Failure to comply with Sec. 22 order can result in a fine of $5,000 for individuals and $25,000 for a corporation for every day a business defies a public health order.
Bushe confirmed that no fine has been issued to the store yet, but did not say if they plan to open in defiance of the order.