Hairdressers and barbers top the list of companies fined during the pandemic

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Hairdressers and barbers in Ottawa received the bulk of tickets issued for trade violations during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the number is far below the total number of tickets issued to individuals.According to data released by the city to CBC News, City of Ottawa agents have charged 16 people since April 3 for operating businesses in a manner that violated COVID-19 restrictions.

Activities include nine hair salons or hair salons, four restaurants, two landscaping companies and a garden center.

Most tickets carry a standard fine of $ 880 for failing to comply with provincial ordinances governing the operation of businesses during a public health emergency. Two people were also fined an additional $ 1,130 for preventing someone from enforcing these orders.

“Investigations of this nature have been initiated following a complaint and proactively,” said Roger Chapman, city manager of municipal and emergency services.

Customer pressure

Five of the 16 people were charged with operating hair salons from their private homes between April 3 and June 12, during which time all personal care businesses were to close.

Lydia Nganga, owner of Lydia’s hair salon at Heron Gate, said she felt pressure from customers to cut her hair before the province gave the green light for the reopening.

“I had almost 50 clients on my waiting list,” said Nganga. “They would just call the first week, ‘Lydia, can I come?’ I was like, “No, right now, you have to wait. “”

Nganga resisted the urge to sneak into a quarantine cut at home because one of his clients could have had COVID-19.

“I couldn’t put my family in danger of having clients at home, and then one day you find out … that you may have a virus or something,” said Nganga.

Nganga said she supports the government punishing business owners who break the rules.

According to the City of Ottawa, many more individuals have been fined for breaking COVID-19 rules than businesses. (Francis Ferland / CBC)

Focus on individuals

The number of fines imposed for business-related offenses is low compared to those granted to individuals for activities such as violation of park rules.

Ottawa municipal by-law officers issued 110 tickets totaling approximately $ 100,000 in fines to people in April alone for various breaches of pandemic restrictions.

Abby Deshman, Director of Criminal Justice Program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), said research on law enforcement during the COVID-19 pandemic shows that the focus has been primarily on individuals .

“Much of the law enforcement has focused on people with their families in their local parks … rather than on businesses that open in flagrant violation of the laws,” said Deshman.

Restrictions on businesses have changed considerably since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the beginning, governments closed almost all businesses except those deemed essential and encouraged people to stay at home, except for necessary travel.

Since the provincial government launched its three-stage economic recovery plan in June, more and more businesses have been allowed to reopen with various health protocols in place.

Most of Ontario has now been in Stage 2 of this plan for almost a month, and with the daily rate of new cases of coronavirus declining since the beginning of June, the province is preparing for Stage 3.

The City of Ottawa appears to have relaxed its approach to enforcing restrictions in the event of a pandemic, after a few high-profile incidents which critics claimed were overbroad.

“At the very beginning, officials said that the emphasis was on education [but] he quickly moved on to giving up education for the Ottawa ticket blitz and law enforcement, “said Deshman. I think it has decreased. ”

The city said it now focuses much of its messages on education.

For example, a draft by-law to make masks mandatory will give law enforcement officials the power to fine up to $ 400 for non-compliance, but city officials have made it clear indicated that they were only considering fines for repeat offenders.

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