Barrie Police Chief Kimberley Greenwood says officers will educate protesters and enforce the law at a downtown demonstration this weekend which is expected to attract hundreds of people.
“We do have significant resources to be able to respond to this,” Greenwood told members of the Barrie Police Services board during their monthly meeting Thursday. “We do have an operational plan in place. We are working with our partners on a response, so that includes public health, the City of Barrie and the Barrie Police Service working together.
“We are sending a strong message for people to stay at home, abide by the legislation," she added.
The chief said enforcement of emergency stay-at-home orders is a collaborative effort between police, city bylaw officers and public health officials. The enforcement approach related to gatherings and businesses that defy orders has been gradual, beginning with education and leading up to enforcement, she said.
Police are expected to circulate cards to educate those protesters about the rules and the dangers of gathering as COVID-19 continues to spread in the community. And there is a recognition that there is a need to balance the rights and freedoms of individuals with the need to keep members of the community safe.
“We will be taking a higher level of enforcement than we did in the previous protests,” Greenwood said.
Greenwood acknowledged there is pandemic fatigue, but did say most people and businesses are complying with the pandemic-induced orders by staying at home and not gathering. She thanked the community for following the rules, which are intended to limit the spread of COVID-19 as the number of infections reach all-time highs.
“We all have a responsibility to reduce the numbers of COVID and make our community safe,” she said. “We want to make sure that our local hospital is able to respond to the COVID medical issues that are there.
“So I’m asking people from our community to comply with the regulations. Do not participate in our demonstrations that are scheduled," the chief added. "I recognize that they have been peaceful up to this point, but we will be taking a graduated approach.”
Greenwood added there are ways other than face-to-face meetings to protest and let individuals have their voices be heard, pointing to online resources.
“It is always balancing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the legislative response," she said. "And we’re looking at the overall safety of our community. We’re looking at the resources that we have deployed to ensure that things are assembled safely.
"But there will be the balance of enforcement there also.”