Thinking of travelling to Gatineau to trick-or-treat? Don't do it, says Ottawa mayor

Ottawa's mayor says it's not worth the risk to travel outside Ottawa for a bit of candy during the pandemic.

Most health units also discouraging trick-or-treating at home or elsewhere

People trick-or-treating on Halloween in the rain in Ottawa in 2019. Ottawa's medical officer of health is confident that residents of the city will do the right thing on Oct. 31. (Justin Tang)

Ottawa's mayor wants to send a clear message for those families who are thinking about travelling across the river or elsewhere to go trick-or-treating — just don't do it. 

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is strongly recommending people not go trick-or-treating this year because the spread of the coronavirus is too high to do anything not considered essential — but in places like Gatineau, it's still allowed.

"Simply going over there and thinking that's going to be safer, you're wrong, because they are in category red as we are," Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said during a virtual media conference Wednesday. 

"It's tough news for kids to hear. They look forward to getting dressed up, they look forward to going trick-or-treating, but is it really worth putting a child at risk for ... $10 or $12 in candy? I don't think so."

Rules in Gatineau

It isn't free for all on the Quebec side.

Children must stay in their neighbourhood with members of their households, not enter people's homes nor shout for their candy.

It is recommended to follow physical distancing and hand washing rules and to quarantine the candy for 24 hours before eating it. 

On top of that, people are not supposed to leave or go to red zones such as Gatineau, Chelsea, Wakefield and Quyon except for essential reasons, such as work.

OPH has also asked residents not to leave the city if they don't have to.

With all of the rules, some in the community are questioning whether it's worth the risk.

"I'm getting the sense that knowing that we're in a red zone here … people are paying attention to the public health announcements," said Larry Prickett, president of La Croisée Community Association. 

Prickett said the association recently had its annual general meeting where a majority of people in attendance said they wouldn't be doing a normal Halloween this year. About 30 people out of more than 200 members attended. 

A house decorated for Halloween in Ottawa in mid-October. The mayor wants to send a clear message for Halloween this year — just don't do it. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Top doctor confident people will do right thing

Most other eastern Ontario health units are also discouraging trick-or-treating, strongly encouraging families to find other ways to celebrate.

If they feel they must go out, people should follow guidelines including staying outside in their neighbourhood with just the people they live with, not leaving bowls of candy out for children to grab from and keeping distanced and clean with a non-medical mask.

The medical officer of health for the Kingston, Ont., area has said its local situation means people can feel comfortable trick-or-treating if they follow the advice above, but to respect people if they don't put out candy.

Meanwhile, Ottawa's medical officer of health is confident that residents of the city will do the right thing on Oct. 31. 

"What I see is that, you know, people in Ottawa are making good choices to do things that are less risky," Dr. Vera Etches said.

"I've been encouraged to see different communities creating new Halloween traditions and sharing candy in new ways."


Natalia is a multi-platform journalist in Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.