Ontario COVID-19 Update

By Terrance S. Carter and Adriel N. Clayton

Jun 2021 Charity & NFP Law Update
Published on June 24, 2021



Ontario Enters Step 1 of Reopening in Province’s “Roadmap to Reopen”

Following its “Roadmap to Reopen”, the Government of Ontario transitioned the province into the first of a three-step plan for reopening the economy on June 11, 2021, after a province-wide shutdown due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As of June 11, new “Step 1” regulations, set out in Ontario Regulation 82/20, Rules for Areas in Shutdown Zone and at Step 1 (“O Reg 82/20”) under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 (“Reopening Ontario Act”), have been in force province-wide, relaxing certain rules restricting workplaces and increasing capacity limits for public events and gatherings.

Schedule 7 of O Reg 82/20 sets out a list of businesses that may be open under Step 1, while Schedule 8 sets out a list of places that must either close or may only be open subject to certain conditions. However, even where a business or organization may be open, it is important for employers, including charities and not-for-profits, to note that restrictions for working remotely under Step 1 still require that staff only be at the workplace if “the nature of their work requires them to be on-site at the workplace”. Where this requirement has not been met, O Reg 82/20 provides each person responsible for an organization that is open “shall ensure that any person who performs work for the business or organization conducts their work remotely.”

As discussed in greater detail in Ontario Moves Into Step 1 of Reopening Regulations, O Reg 82/20 permits outdoor activities and gatherings of up to 10 people, as well as non-essential retail at 15 percent capacity, under Step 1, subject to certain restrictions. Indoor gatherings “for the purposes of a wedding, a funeral or a religious service, rite or ceremony” are permitted at 15% capacity of the room they are held in, while outdoor gatherings for the same purpose have no capacity limits, provided that two metres’ physical distancing can be maintained at all times. Outdoor public events and social gatherings associated with weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites, or ceremonies are allowed up to 10 people, while indoor gatherings for the same purpose continue to be prohibited under Step 1.

Beyond Step 1, the Government of Ontario’s “Reopening Ontario” webpage was updated on June 24, 2021 to indicate that the province would move to Step 2 on June 30, 2021. In support of the transition, Ontario Regulation 263/20: Rules for Areas in Step 2 (formerly Rules for Areas in Stage 2) under the Reopening Ontario Act was amended on June 23, 2021. Under Step 2, the restrictions for working remotely remain the same as those under Step 1, and employers will continue to be  responsible for ensuring that only those who are required to be at the workplace are present remain the same.

The capacity for indoor gatherings for weddings, funerals and religious services, rites and ceremonies will increase from 15% under Step 1 to 25% under Step 2. Outdoor gatherings for the same purpose are permitted provided that all persons present comply with public health guidance on physical distancing. Indoor social gatherings associated with a wedding, funeral, or religious service, rite or ceremony are now permitted to a maximum of 5 people, while the limit for associated outdoor social gatherings has been increased from 10 under Step 1 to 25 under Step 2.