British Columbia

In B.C., the number of people allowed at Thanksgiving dinner depends on where you live

As British Columbians prepare for another pandemic Thanksgiving on Monday, regional restrictions on indoor gatherings mean celebrations could look very different across the province.

Restrictions on indoor gatherings in eastern Fraser Valley, Interior Health and Northern Health regions

Farmer Derek Edwards is pictured with two-week old turkeys at his farm in Richmond ahead of Thanksgiving. The long weekend will look very different for British Columbians depending on where they live. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

As British Columbians prepare for another pandemic Thanksgiving on Monday, regional restrictions on indoor gatherings mean celebrations could look very different across the province.

B.C.'s regional approach to dealing with the fourth wave of COVID-19 means that it is legal to have 10 people indoors over the long weekend in Vancouver or Victoria, but not in Prince George or Kelowna.

Restrictions differ depending on the health authority and, in one case, the health service delivery area — the subdivisions that make up the health authority regions.

In the Fraser East health service delivery area — which covers the eastern portion of the Fraser Health region, including the cities of Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission and Hope — indoor gatherings are permitted with no restrictions, but only if all attendees are fully vaccinated. 

The same is not true for the Northern Health or Interior Health regions, where indoor gatherings are limited to one household plus five visitors. This restriction applies regardless of the vaccination status of the attendees.


"I want to ask everyone, please keep your group small this year," said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Tuesday. 

"We want to make sure these [Thanksgiving] gatherings are a happy occurrence and not a cause for virus transmission and illness in the coming weeks."

Henry said B.C. residents who have immuno-compromised or older family members, in particular, should "make sure" everybody who attends Thanksgiving dinner is fully vaccinated.

"I think the overarching theme to any discussion about how you want to plan your Thanksgiving long weekend, is to realize that it's going to be a risk-benefit calculation," said Dr. Christopher Labos, an epidemiologist and cardiologist based in Montreal. "Nothing is 100 per cent safe. Nothing is 100 per cent dangerous."

Labos said Thanksgiving dinners should be planned with a few factors in mind, such as the case rates in the area, whether family members or guests are regularly exposed to strangers (such as if there are school-age children), and if there are immuno-compromised family members.

Planning is sure to be complicated by the available case data published by the province, which some critics have said is inadequate.

Turkey sales take hit in pandemic

The uncertainty and restrictions on gathering sizes during the last Thanksgiving holiday was reflected in turkey sales, according to farmer Derek Edwards.

"Whole bird sales and turkey [sales] went down during the pandemic just because you couldn't get together as a group," he said. "People weren't buying bigger birds to have a big family dinner because you just couldn't have them."

Edwards owns a turkey farm in Richmond and says his family has been farming for over a century. He is part of the third generation of farmers to raise turkeys, and his grandfather still lives on the farm.

Edwards measures the largest pumpkin on his farm. He is the third generation of his family to raise turkeys at their Richmond farm. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Currently, the farm hosts 4,000 two-week-old birds that are fattening up for Christmas.

The family normally has a huge gathering on Thanksgiving. They grow all the Thanksgiving staples on the farm including cranberries and pumpkins. 

But Edwards says this year will see a small gathering because of the pandemic.

"We just kept it small with the pandemic just to keep everybody safe," he said. 

Edwards hopes turkey sales will rebound slightly this year as gatherings are allowed again in some areas.

With files from Isabelle Raghem and BC Today