Article by Adrian Humphreys, National Post
Hamilton police charged an alleged street drug dealer with violating the COVID-19 emergency declaration for conducting a non-essential business during the pandemic shutdown.
The 29-year-old man was also charged with drug trafficking and proceeds of crime charges.
Members of the Hamilton police drug unit were in the city’s east end when they saw a black Jeep Grand Cherokee being driven in an aggressive manner on Friday. Officers discovered the vehicle was improperly plated and began monitoring its movements, police said.
The officers watched the Jeep stop several times as the driver pulled over to conduct drug transactions as he drove through the entire downtown core, police allege. Shortly before 8:00 p.m., it stopped at a commercial business in the city’s west end, near McMaster University.
The driver was arrested for drug trafficking. During a search, police said they found further evidence to support criminal charges: cocaine valued at $3,400 divided into a number of small plastic bags, along with $5,690 in Canadian currency and $20 in U.S. currency, police said.
He was then also notified of the unusual charge of violating the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.
“Currently, due to COVID-19, a declaration of emergency has been enacted under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. A condition under the order includes all non-essential businesses to cease functioning,” Const. Jerome Stewart said.
“He was issued the ticket simply because the business he was operating is not considered essential.”
This is the second violation of the province’s COVID-19 business shutdown.
On March 19, a hookah lounge on Upper James St., called the Shisha Kaif Cafe, was visited by Hamilton police after a complaint it was operating as usual. Police officers found evidence it was in violation of the emergency shutdown order, Stewart said.
“We issued the business a ticket as well as a representatives of the business for failing to comply with the order made during the declared emergency.”
In an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 during the global pandemic, the Ontario government ordered the mandatory closure of all non-essential workplaces effective March 24.
A list of essential businesses that could remain open included businesses such as grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, gas stations and restaurants providing take out or delivery food.
Also included in the province’s list of essential businesses are beer, wine and liquor stores and licensed cannabis stores.
At the time of the announcement, Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, said people with “significant dependence issues with respect to alcohol” needed to be considered and that if alcohol was not available, it “would lead to pretty significant health consequences.”