Harsh fines and policing don’t protect people from COVID-19, criminologists say

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Corey Yanofsky, a data scientist living in Ottawa, took his dog out for a walk last week and ended up with an $880 fine for standing in the wrong place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Obi Ifedi of Ottawa was walking through a park with his daughter April 4 when he was approached by a city bylaw officer. He says he was eventually tackled and ended the evening with a bruised lip and fines totalling more than $2,000.

Then there was Melissa Leblanc of the Montreal suburb of Beaconsfield, who was greeted by police at her door April 5 after family and friends wished her a happy birthday from their cars.

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They are just a handful of the hundreds of Canadians feeling the impact of policies that governments have put in place since March aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19. But experts in criminology and law are pushing back against the conventional wisdom that giving police the power to levy heavy fines will make people safer.

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They argue public health directives are unclear, and the way they are being enforced is counterproductive and a distraction from the failure of the state to better prepare for COVID-19.

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