Following criticism from the public, Toronto Mayor John Tory has apologized for his “personal behaviour” at Trinity Bellwoods Park, where thousands of people gathered on Saturday.
“I fully intended to properly physically distance but it was very difficult to do,” said Tory in a statement. “I wore a mask into the park but I failed to use it properly, another thing I'm disappointed about.
“These were mistakes that I made and as a leader in this city, I know that I must set a better example going forward.”
The mayor explained that his visit to the popular downtown park was “to determine why things were the way they were,” as large groups of people were seen disobeying social distancing requirements.
This is how you set an example? Tory at Trinity? pic.twitter.com/YFE0bBReLu— Dani Elwell (@danielwell00) May 24, 2020
Throughout the past week, as Toronto and Ontario both saw concerning COVID-19 trends, Tory reinforced the importance of maintaining a two-metre distance. When that’s not possible, he said people should wear a face mask or covering, to limit the chance of spreading COVID-19 to others.
In Toronto, there’s also an “emergency order” and bylaw in place: people from separate households are not allowed to be within two metres of one another, and can be fined up to $5,000 upon conviction.
On Saturday, Tory said that the gathering at Trinity Bellwoods Park was “unfortunate and extremely disappointing” and “could contribute to the kind of setback we are trying hard to avoid.”
This is the kind of mask misuse that made public health officials hesitant to tell people to wear them. Wear a mask in public; don’t do it like this. pic.twitter.com/1sFpLzXgfV— Gil Meslin (@g_meslin) May 24, 2020
The event garnered four tickets that were issued to visitors of Trinity Bellwoods for allegedly disobeying the physical distancing bylaw and provincial orders.
According to CP24, when 10,000-people were at the park, 10 police and bylaw officers were on scene. They were reportedly afraid of risking their own safety if they were to enter the crowd, which they deemed “impossible to patrol.”
Toronto police chief Mark Saunders said that there were several tickets issued because people were also caught defecating and urinating in backyards and driverways of nearby homes.
"When you've got an elderly woman opening the door and seeing someone defecating, it is quite bothersome," Saunders said. “If you’re going to be bringing beer here and then utilize someone else’s house as a toilet, then there’s a bit of self entitlement there.”
The City of Toronto is now working with Toronto Public Health to reopen washrooms in public parks to ensure that people can stay safe and healthy.
Premier Doug Ford also addressed the large gathering, after videos and photos surfaced on Saturday of large groups of people socializing and enjoying the sunshine.
“I thought it was a rock concert at the beginning when I went out there. I was absolutely shocked,” said Ford on Sunday. “It might not even be about the young people. They can go home and give it to their parents or their grandparents, because there’s still a deadly virus among us. If we allow it ... it will spread like wildfire.”
This past week, the city reopened amenities in hundreds of parks. But Toronto’s “emergency order” (originally issued in early April) is still in place, and for good reason heading into the weekend.
As of Friday evening, 1,883 of the province’s 3,846 active cases are found in the city’s public health region. Toronto also recently recorded 220 of the province’s 412 new cases, while consistent community spread has been reported throughout the past few months of the pandemic in Ontario’s most populous area.
Despite the province being in the first phase of its reopening process, Ford has said that he and health officials are seeing “concerning” trends as its daily cases and testing outputs continue to head in worrisome directions. If they continue, Ford said he won’t hesitate to roll back his reopening plans.
In the entire province, people from different households are still not allowed to gather in groups of five or more. But that didn’t seem to stop thousands of people Saturday from potentially contributing to the spread of a virus that’s already killed at least 2,048 people in Ontario, so far.
.@TorontoPolice and the @cityoftoronto want to remind residents of social distancing after reports of upwards of 10,000 people at Trinity Bellwood’s Park. Police and bylaw are aware of the gathering #Toronto #COVIDー19 pic.twitter.com/JgRMjUUK1a— Andrew Collins (@ACollinsPhoto) May 23, 2020
Joe Cressy, a Spadina-Fort York city councillor and chair of the Toronto Board of Health, wasn’t too impressed by the showing Saturday.
"You're putting yourself, your parents, your grandparents, and your friends at risk. So, grow up," said Cressy to CP24.
A City of Toronto statement said the gathering threatens “to undo the difficult and challenging work residents of this city have done over the last 10 weeks in their collective effort to beat COVID-19.”
Tory warned people that on Sunday they can expect an increase in bylaw officers and Toronto police who will be enforcing social distancing rules. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa also took to Twitter to remind people to maintain a distance, especially now that the city is seeing an increase in cases.
The scenes today in Trinity-Bellwoods are so disappointing. This is dangerous and selfish behaviour. While by-law and TPS officers are on site, clearly people are not getting the message to physically distance. I’ve spoken with senior city staff who are actively assessing options— Joe Cressy (@joe_cressy) May 23, 2020
Please keep a physical distance and do not socialize in group settings, especially indoors. Please continue to practise physical distancing, & please continue to take care of each other. (3/3)— Dr. Eileen de Villa (@epdevilla) May 23, 2020
Others who have decided to heed the advice of public health officials, also aren’t too pleased with what they’re seeing.
Some have made jokes in these uncertain times, but others have also questioned what role police should play as people disobey the emergency order put in place by the City of Toronto.
Where are the police? If this was another neighbourhood they'd roll up and break this up real quick. https://t.co/pqSxVuHBmP— Donnovan Bennett (@donnovanbennett) May 23, 2020
We've moved past the point of people being stupid. These are not stupid people. These are heartless people. They're smart people who know that they can carry the virus to someone much more vulnerable than them. They've been told that for months. They just don't care.— Andrew Hunt (@Mr_AndrewHunt) May 23, 2020
Can't wait to sit at home for another 3 months— Stacey B (@beets79) May 23, 2020
@johntory @fordnation Why are there no police monitoring Trinity Bellwoods Park!?! Absolutely unacceptable and dangerous! As a neighbour I am extremely concerned for my safety!! So disappointed ☹️ #COVID19Ontario— Ok3Times (@okthreetimes) May 23, 2020
Close Trinity Bellwoods. The people of Toronto have proven they can’t manage the space. Close it down.— Lauren Richard (@BeerGirlCA) May 23, 2020
We are not all meant to survive I guess— Leo (@LeoSepu) May 23, 2020
I rode by Trinity-Bellwoods this afternoon. I’ve never seen it that full before. No joke. I saw women going into the bushes by the dog bowl to pee - all the bathrooms are closed obviously. The police and bylaw officers looked confused and frustrated. Not cool, Toronto.— Jaime (@habitualpixel) May 23, 2020
I don’t think it’s that fair blame Toronto police and bylaw officers for the mess at Trinity Bellwoods. Let’s be very clear: police are not your parents. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. As adults we should be able exhibit control and informed decision making.— Kayla Grey (@Kayla_Grey) May 23, 2020
Glad to know I stay inside and do my part just to have all these people go out and enjoy the weather... 😒 @The_Strath— Krystal (@girlbrushedpink) May 23, 2020
Trinity Bellwoods... this is the reason we can’t have nice things pic.twitter.com/Kvs28zZaKG— Mister Race Bannon (@MrRaceBannon) May 23, 2020
Somebody needs to crank some Nickelback in Trinity Bellwoods to clear it.— Jeremy Taggart (@Taggart7) May 23, 2020
I always knew Trinity Bellwoods would somehow kill us all https://t.co/JGIOw92Bxf— Jake Goldsbie (@JGoldsbie) May 23, 2020
Didn’t do anything productive today but at least I wasn’t at trinity bellwoods pic.twitter.com/Cab4f9QQaS— Noor (@zainroon) May 23, 2020
What do you think of the way some Canadians are behaving, despite emergency orders? What should provinces do? Vote in the poll above and tell us what you think in the comments.