Ontario’s List of Essential Businesses

By Courtney March
April 1, 2020

On March 23, 2020, the Government of Ontario ordered the closure of all workplaces it considered to be “non-essential”. These workplaces were ordered to close by 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Teleworking and online commerce is, of course, still permitted for all businesses. For those businesses not listed as essential, temporary access to a closed business is permissible for an enumerated set of circumstances. Other jurisdictions have also issued similar orders.

As this situation is ever evolving, the list is as well. The Government has enabled an online application service where those businesses not listed as “essential” can apply to have their business represented on the list.

Penalties for contravening any order

The “Closure of Places of Non-Essential Businesses” Order (the “Order”) was enacted under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, RSO 1990, c E9 (the “EMCPA”).

Section 7.0.11(1) provides the maximum penalties for contravening any order made under the EMCPA. Individuals may be fined up to $100,000 and imprisoned for up to one year; individuals who are directors or officers of a corporation may be fined up to $500,000 and imprisoned for up to one year; and corporations may be fined up to $10,000,000. In addition, pursuant to section 7.0.11(3) of the EMCPA, an individual or corporation may see an increase in the fine imposed equal to whatever financial benefit was accrued as a result of contravening the Order.

The Government signed a ministerial designation under the Provincial Offences Act, RSO 1990, c P33, (the “POA”) to authorize particular officers (for example provincial or municipal law enforcement officers, or by-law enforcement officers) to enforce the EMCPA orders.

While these enforcement officers have been encouraged to take a graduated approach to compliance, they have the discretion to charge an offender under Part I (Certificate of Offence) or Part III (Information) of the POA. If an individual, director/officer of a corporation, or a corporation is charged under Part I, they may be subject to a fine of $750.00. If they are charged under Part III, the penalty provision of the EMCPA may apply.


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