Checkpoints to return to Ottawa-Gatineau border Monday
Details still being hammered out, say Ottawa officials
Travel checkpoints are set to return Monday between Ottawa and Gatineau, Que., part of a slate of new COVID-19 restrictions announced by the Ontario government on Friday.
Premier Doug Ford announced the checkpoints will soon appear at Ontario's borders with Quebec and Manitoba as part of the province's ongoing attempt to manage the severity of the pandemic's third wave.
Exceptions will be in place for people going to work, seeking medical care, transporting goods and exercising Indigenous treaty rights.
"Should an individual not have a valid reason to enter Ontario, they will be turned back," said Health Minister Christine Elliott during Friday's news conference.
"These are tough but necessary measures to help us overcome this health crisis."
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The restriction hearkens back to last spring when the Quebec government implemented checkpoints on bridge and ferry crossings across the Ottawa River, during the pandemic's first wave.
Geneviève Guilbault, Quebec's deputy premier, said Friday evening that her province's borders would be closed to visitors from Ontario starting Monday as well.
Rules still 'unfolding'
During a city news conference Friday, both Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Ottawa Police Service (OPS) Chief Peter Sloly said municipal officials were still waiting for details on the checkpoint plan.
Sloly said his understanding was that the checkpoints would be operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for several weeks.
He said OPS was having enforcement discussions with the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police and their counterparts in Quebec.
"It is a still unfolding set of regulations and expectations, and so anything further than that would be speculation at this time," Sloly said.
Watson characterized the premier's comments as a clear signal to Ontario residents to stay on this side of the Ottawa River and not head to their cottages or Gatineau Park.
Even so, Watson said he hoped officers would be allowed to exercise some discretion if people had other "legitimate" reasons for travel — for instance, the death of a loved one.
"What we're saying is, look, you don't have to go over to go to Gatineau Park or to get cheap beer at the depanneur," Watson said. "But if there's a sensible reason ... I hope that the police are given that discretion."
The border announcement comes as Ottawa Public Health reported 345 new cases and one death Friday, with more than 100 COVID-19 patients in hospital for the first time since the pandemic was declared in early 2020.
Another 181 cases are resolved, with the confirmed active case total now above 3,100.