Workers, volunteers, and organizations that make an “honest effort” to follow public health guidelines relating to COVID-19 exposure, may soon be protected.

Supporting Ontario’s Recovery Act is a bill introduced by the provincial government that if passed, will provide liability protection for those following public health guidelines pertaining to the pandemic.

It will also maintain the right of Ontarians to take legal action against those who endanger others willfully, or with negligence.

“It comes down to the individual or the organization,” said Attorney General Doug Downey. “It’s whether they make a good faith, an honest effort to obtain public advice.”

Downey says that there are many areas where the advice is available, including public health units.
“Or what you hear on a daily basis from the Chief Medical Officer of Health. Sometimes, there’s overlap in the advice. Sometimes one is more specific than the other. The [honest effort] measure is if you are making good faith, honest effort to gather that advice and implement it. That’s where the line is going to be.”

That doesn’t mean that everyone is safe from prosecution.   “We want the bad guys to account for what they’ve done. We’re not getting in the way of that at all. If they didn’t provide the necessities of life, or malnourishment or assault, those things are still on the table. If someone’s been doing bad stuff, they’re still in harm’s way.” said Downey.

Downey says that the bill is narrow and focused on the inadvertent transmission by people doing things in good faith, “Grocery store clerks, [personal support workers], volunteers at local legions, charities… that’s who it’s targeted at. The best example for me is the hockey coach. Who’s been doing this stuff for decades and is nervous in engaging in his community… to get the kids on the ice and get some exercise. It’s good for mental health. We don’t want that bar to be there. We don’t want the barrier to be there. We want to make sure good faith honest effort there’s a level of protection.”

Downey says it’s all about enabling people to continue engaging in their communities, “The communities need it. It’s good for the communities. It’s good for mental health. We want people volunteering at the food banks. We want people operating small businesses and opening their doors when they can and we want them following public health advice. That’s a key part of this.”

**Written by Bradley Aubin