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59 people face fines of up to $100,000 for breaking COVID-19 rules in Brampton,Jason Miller – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,on September 16, 2020 at 8:59 pm

59 people face fines of up to $100,000 for breaking COVID-19 rules in Brampton,Jason Miller – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,on September 16, 2020 at 8:59 pm

Brampton’s tough stance on illegal gatherings and other emergency-measures violations has led to 59 summonses being issued for people now liable for penalties of up to $100,000 for COVID-19 breaches.

The city has issued 744 tickets — 59 of which will now see the final punishment decided by the courts — since the lockdown started, compared to neighbouring Mississauga, where 344 fines were handed out over the same time frame. In both cities, people hosting residential gatherings accounted for most of the fines.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said his city, which accounts for more than half of the 8,427 cases in Peel as of Sept. 16, had to come down hard on some of the most egregious violations, after the community made headlines for being a hub for people hosting large bashes, one of which attracted an estimated 200 people in July and another where police were called to a shooting that same weekend.

“I would note that the last 30 days we have not had to issue many tickets as there has been a high degree of compliance,” Brown said Wednesday. “When we had the initial fines, it had a chilling effect and it caused people to stop.”

In some cases in Brampton, bylaw officers had initially issued $880 fines at the scene for failure to comply with an emergency order, but later opted to withdraw those penalties in favour of heavier fines that require a summons and a court date. Fines for summons can range up to $100,000 and are at the discretion of the Justice of the Peace.

“It’s now up to the Justice of the Peace to make the determination, based on the evidence provided, whether it’s a fine that’s worth $500 or up to $100,000,” said JP Maurice, Brampton’s manager of bylaw enforcement, told the Star last month.

Brampton officials said the city issued nearly twice as many warnings as tickets. Brown said the majority of the city’s 285 residential breaches were neighbourhood social gatherings and not the large bashes seen earlier in the summer. (Roughly 228 businesses were also fined.)

The province has hinted at lowering permitted gathering sizes, a move that prompted Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie to plead with Peel residents to limit their social interactions before the region is forced to lose gains made.

“Avoid large groups and don’t look for reasons for fill up your social calendar,” Crombie said Wednesday. “I have asked the premier to look closely at the unique challenges that Peel faces, in terms of what’s driving our numbers such as social gatherings, when devising his plan of action.”

Mississauga spokesperson Carley Smith DeBenedictis said that “we reserve summonses for the most egregious offenders and have not seen the large-scale parties that Brampton has experienced.” There was a significant decrease in charges after Aug. 10 as Mississauga moved into Stage Three, which let most businesses reopen and raised the limit on gatherings to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors, she added Wednesday.

For those incidents not headed to court, fines issued on site in Peel ranged from $180 for face-coverings bylaw breaches to $1,130 for violation of provisions in the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

To date, Brampton has accounted for 94 of the Peel region’s 326 COVID-19 deaths. There were 58 new cases on Sept. 16 compared to 39 new cases reported in Peel the day before.

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Jason Miller is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering crime and justice in the Peel Region. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him on email: jasonmiller@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic

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