Follow the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law

·3 min read

As confusion spreads regarding what is essential and what is not following the latest stay at home order, local officials have a clear message.

Stay home.

While Chatham-Kent’s top doctor agrees the definition of what is essential and what is non-essential is not particularly clear, he is asking people to respect the spirit of the law and to stay home.

According to Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health, the problem happens when people don’t look at the spirit of the law, and they look at the letter of the law instead.

“They say ‘exactly what am I allowed to get away with here?’,” said Colby. “The purpose of this is to encourage people to stay home and stay safe.”

Colby clarified the spirit of the law.

“The spirit of the law is unless you’ve got a good reason to leave your home -- a necessary reason -- stay home,” said Colby.

He said employers are encouraged to have their employees work at home whenever possible. He also added that people need to maintain the necessities of life and get out for food, medicines, health appointments and more.

Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire admitted the municipality had been encouraged by the province to take a stronger role in doing enforcement.

Shropshire said people could no longer say after 10 months, they were unaware of the rules.

“I would expect if someone were to do something like have a party or disrespect the five people maximum gathering, and so on, that’s the sort of thing I think people are going to be called upon,” said Shropshire.

Ultimately, Shropshire said they are not running around trying to find tickets.

“I don’t see the bylaw enforcement officers waiting outside of the paint store for someone to pick up that gallon of paint,” said Shropshire.

In fact, Chatham-Kent Police issued a statement on Jan. 14 saying they won’t be actively pursuing those breaking the latest stay at home order by the province. However, they will continue to educate the public about Covid-19 measures and respond to complaints.

This means the Chatham Kent Police Service will not be randomly stopping vehicles or pedestrians for the sole purpose of checking for compliance with the stay-at-home order.

Police are asking the citizens of Chatham-Kent for their cooperation and to use common-sense in these challenging times. They are pleading with the public to limit their trips outside of the home, wear a mask, social distance, and wash their hands. Police added, now more than ever, the community needs to rally together for everyone’s health and safety in Chatham-Kent.

“Community safety has been and remains our number one priority throughout this pandemic. Our Police Service is committed to working with community partners in balancing overall public safety and health. Officers will continue to engage and educate the citizens of our community in an effort to seek compliance, with enforcement being used as the last resort,” said Chief Gary Conn.

Complaints and concerns regarding COVID-19 violations should be reported by calling 311 or by emailing

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News