OTTAWA -- Ottawa Bylaw officers issued 43 tickets over the weekend to people hanging out in parks, gathering in groups larger than five and non-essential businesses remaining open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Jim Watson says officers responded to 526 reports over the weekend of people ignoring the restrictions put in place by the Ontario Government.

Some people received verbal warnings about hanging out in public parks or gathering in large groups.

Under Ontario’s Emergency Management and Civil Protect Act, all parks are closed except to walk through and non-essential businesses must remain closed.

Ottawa Bylaw said on Friday it would start issuing tickets for:

  • Gatherings of five or more people in public and private residences
  • People congregating in parks/using park facilities or equipment
  • Restaurants that continue to offer dine-in services
  • Non-essential retail businesses continuing to operate.

The fine for failing to comply with the Ontario Emergency and Civil Protection Act is $750. A victim surcharge brings the fine to $880.

When discussing the tickets in a teleconference on Monday, Watson said it was “unfortunate but necessary to make certain people understand we’re all responsible to stop the spread of this deadly virus.”

Watson says one person received two tickets totalling $2,000 for not respecting provincial orders and being verbally aggressive with a bylaw officer.

An Ottawa pub still serving customers and a barber shop continuing to operate also received tickets over the weekend.

Ottawa residents complained on social media about fines this weekend, including one person saying they received a fine for walking the dog at Britanna Park.

Watson says Bylaw Services officers “observe and are trained to be reasonable.”

The City of Ottawa insists you can walk through parks, but can’t loiter or play in the park.

Emergency and Protective Services General Manager Anthony Di Monte told reporters “you should be walking through the park, you should be enjoying that space and taking air. But not loitering in the park, or playing in the park.”

“You should be walking through the park and on your way.”