Ontario skiers breaking lockdowns to ski in Quebec

Many Ontarians crossed the provincial border to ski in western Quebec on Saturday, despite renewed requests from officials to stay home during holiday lockdowns in both provinces.

Non-essential travel over the Ottawa River has been discouraged

Christopher Paine and his son Daniel crossed the provincial border from Ottawa to Chelsea, Que., and hit the slopes on Saturday. Ontario has closed its ski hills and told residents to only leave the province for essential reasons. (Jean-François Poudrier/Radio-Canada)

Many Ontarians crossed the provincial border to ski in western Quebec on Saturday, saying they believe the capital region's close ties across the border make it unique and lockdown recommendations shouldn't apply.

For weeks, health officials in Quebec have asked people to only cross for essential reasons, without bringing back the checkpoints of the spring.

Some eastern Ontario health units have been asking residents to only leave their region when necessary.

As both provinces introduce stricter rules around the new year to try to cut back on COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, Ontario has told residents to only leave the province for essential reasons and specifically said skiing does not qualify.

Anyone who leaves has been told to self-isolate for 14 days after they return.

Those rules include closing Ontario ski hills, while Quebec's can open.

"I know we're not supposed to be here, but it's the only thing we can do," said Christopher Paine, an Ottawan and season ticket holder at Camp Fortune, a ski resort in Chelsea, Que.

"There is no snow in the city centre … Everything is closed and it is safe here," he told Radio-Canada, saying that resort seemed to be taking health and safety seriously. 

"If we lived in Toronto and [were] going to Montreal — OK, that would be a bit different," said Andrew Griffiths, another skier from Ottawa.

"We're almost in the same city here. We still call ourselves the greater National Capital Region. I don't think it really applies in that sense."

Many businesses in Chelsea also depend on Ontario customers. 

"Of course, it will hurt us if Ontarians can't come," said Isaac Lauzon, operations manager of the Chelsea Pub, in a French-language interview. His pub is open for takeout and delivery only.

In Quebec, closed businesses can reopen on Jan. 11 at the earliest, while Ottawa's lockdown is expected to last until Jan. 23.

Isaac Lauzon, operations manager of Chelsea Pub, is worried Ottawans will stay at home. (Jean-François Poudrier/Radio-Canada)

With files from Radio-Canada's Jean-François Poudrier

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