Canada's national police force announced Friday, Apr. 10, 2020, that officers with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have been asked by federal public health officials to help them enforce the COVID-19 quarantine measures announced on March 25, 2020. (CBC)

RCMP to enforce Quarantine Act, arrest violators as ‘a last resort’

Canada’s national police force has been asked to visit homes of people who are required to self-isolate for 14 days after returning to Canada from abroad to enforce the government’s COVID-19 quarantine order, officials with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) announced Friday.

RCMP warned that violating the quarantine order could result in significant penalties, including a fine of up to $1 million or imprisonment of up to three years for someone “who causes a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person while willfully or recklessly” contravening self-isolation orders.

“Choosing to ignore mandatory isolation and quarantine orders is not only against the law, it’s also putting citizens, first responders, health professionals and the most vulnerable at risk of exposure to the virus,” RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said in a statement.

“Collectively, everyone in Canada has a role to play to ensure compliance with isolation and physical distancing measures.”

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki listens to a question while providing an update on the ongoing investigation, arrest and charges against Cameron Ortis at RCMP National Headquarters in Ottawa on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. (Chris Wattie/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Lucki said the request for assistance in enforcing the March 25 Quarantine Act Order came from the Public Health of Canada (PHAC), which is requesting that police agencies across Canada physically verify that individuals subject to the mandatory self-isolation order are indeed staying put at home.

These checks will generally be limited to persons who, after PHAC has done initial verifications by phone, text or email, may require a physical verification by police, Lucki said.

RCMP officers will use a risk-based, measured approach to non-compliance, focusing on education and encouragement, she said.

RCMP officers will attempt to conduct physical verification with the individual while maintaining physical distancing, Lucki said.

Currently, individuals charged under the Quarantine Act can be issued a court appearance notice or summons, rather than being taken into custody, Lucki said.

Arrests would be a last resort, based on the circumstance and the officer’s risk assessment, she added.

“Taking a person into custody is not the preferred approach to enforcing isolation or quarantine (self-isolation), and may place officers and other persons at risk of exposure to the virus,” RCMP said in a statement.

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