Montrealers, please don't have large Christmas gatherings up north, urges Laurentians mayor

With much of the Laurentians region still designated as an orange zone, the mayor of Morin-Heights has a message to people who own cottages in the area: Feel free to stop by, go skiing, enjoy the sights, but don't organize large Christmas gatherings.

Morin-Heights mayor is worried red-zone residents could flock to Laurentians, causing surge in cases in region

Much of the Laurentians region is still designated as an orange zone, and there are concerns Montrealers could flock to the area for Christmas gatherings. (The Canadian Press)

The mayor of a popular tourist town just north of Montreal has a message for residents in nearby red zones: do not flock to the Laurentians to organize large gatherings for Christmas.

Much of the Laurentians region is designated as an orange zone, and Morin-Heights Mayor Tim Watchorn wants it to stay that way.

"If the cases start going up and spreading because people don't respect the rules and don't stay in the red zones, then all our businesses will be closed, our cases are going to spike and we'll end up in a red zone also," Watchorn told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

On Thursday, the province's premier announced Christmas gatherings in red zones would be banned. Two gatherings of up to 10 people are still allowed in yellow zones. People in orange zones can get together in groups of six.

As recently as three weeks ago, sensing that more and more visitors from other regions were popping up, mayors in the Laurentians asked the Quebec government to put in police checkpoints in the area. 

François Legault denied the request, and on Thursday, he shot down the idea once again.

"I think the key will be to make sure people respect the rules in stores, in homes" said Legault. "I think it's more important that we put police efforts in these directions than putting efforts on controlling the travelling between regions."

The mayor of Morin-Heights, Tim Watchorn, is urging people in red zones to not organize large Christmas gatherings in the Laurentians. (Town of Morin-Heights)

If people do decide to head to the Laurentians for Christmas, the executive director of Mont-Tremblant's tourism board says the least they can do is stay with people from their households, and avoid going to indoor public places.

"We'd like to remind that they have to stay together with the same address," said Daniel Blier. "They cannot gather with other people. They cannot go to bars or restaurants, except for takeout."

Watchorn says he doesn't mind  people travelling to the Laurentians for outdoor activities. It's the indoor gatherings that worry him, as well as what he considers to be a lack of willingness by the province to enforce public health guidelines.

He is encouraging Montrealers and others with properties up north to visit during the holidays, but is urging them to respect the rules.

"Spend Christmas up here, it's beautiful," he said. "Go cross-country skiing, go fat biking, do what you have to do but just don't do huge gatherings. We don't need our health-care workers up here and in Montreal to suffer through the next couple months because we didn't respect the rules."

WATCH | Dr. Cécile Tremblay on the positives of a scaled down Christmas:

There are advantages to having small Christmas celebrations, expert says

2 years ago
Duration 0:53
Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Cécile Tremblay says in all likelihood, big Christmas gatherings will be allowed again in Quebec next year, after being cancelled in much of the province due to the pandemic. In the meantime, there are advantages to a smaller celebration, she says.

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak


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