Trick or treating safely? Ontario and Quebec take different stances

Oct 26, 2020

Public health authorities in eastern Ontario and local governments are advising trick-or-treaters to find other ways to enjoy Halloween this year.

On Oct. 13, the municipal council in Casselman decided that trick-or-treating would be canceled within the municipality on Oct. 31 due to the risks related to COVID-19. The fire department, which normally does a safety patrol on Halloween, will not be making the rounds this year either.

Casselman Mayor Daniel Lafleur said that council’s support for the motion was unanimous. He said the decision was made to protect elderly people and children.

According to Lafleur, issues that council was uncertain if adults and children would maintain proper physical distancing and if children would be wearing protective masks in addition to costume masks.

He said that the municipality is not responsible if there is trick-or-treating happening in Casselman on Oct. 31, but he would prefer if people abided by council’s decision.

“Respect the regulation that we have in place,” said Lafleur.

Health department recommends against trick-or-treating

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit, which is the public health department for Prescott and Russell and Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry counties, has recommended that residents not trick-or-treat at all this Halloween due to the increasing amount of cases, and has stated that Halloween parties are completely out of the question.

There were 200 active cases of COVID-19 across the EOHU’s territory as of Friday.

“It’s not going to be the same Halloween as usual,” EOHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said on Oct. 16.

The EOHU is recommending alternative ways of celebrating Halloween at home among immediate families and virtually. 

If people do choose to trick-or treat, they should follow a series of measures so it can be done more safely.  Those measures include physical distancing, and for residents to be outdoors when they give out treats. Anyone who feels sick on Halloween night is to stay home.

Aside from Casselman’s decision to discourage trick-or-treating, the councils in other local towns were waiting for directions from the EOHU and planning to follow its lead.

In some communities, efforts have been made to work within the rules so there can be some kind of celebration. A drive by “Trunk or Treat” event has been organized by the Optimist Club in Cornwall and a carefully distanced outdoor event is taking place at the Glengarry Pioneer Museum in Dunvegan. In South Dundas, which includes the villages of Iroquois and Morrisburg, a whole “Spooktacular Halloween Week,” of online events has been organized.

Quebec gives trick or treating the green light, with caution

Quebec is taking a provincial approach to the big question of if Halloween trick-or-treating can still go ahead on Oct. 31.

Premier François Legault, Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé and Director of Public Health, Dr. Horacio Arruda recently announced that the tradition of going door-to-door in costume for candy can still go ahead, but with extra caution.

Legault said that there are three conditions trick-or-treaters, their parents and householders should follow.  Children must travel only in the company of members of their household, children should collect the candies and sweets placed in a place two metres from the occupants of the household they are visiting, and under no circumstances should children enter homes where they do not live.

Other directives include that people with symptoms of COVID-19 or who are in isolation should not participate, the places trick-or-treaters visit should be limited to the neighborhood surrounding their homes, and municipalities are invited to direct traffic on sidewalks to ensure people keep moving.

No Halloween parties or private gatherings will be tolerated. Legault said that this year, Halloween is for kids who go door to door.

Arruda said the risks associated with Halloween are considered low, because children are walking around outdoors for a relatively short period of time, ranging from 1-3 hours. The most serious risk regarding Halloween for adults is private gatherings involving the consumption of alcohol.

In Quebec, gatherings are already subject to a ban in regions at the maximum alert level (red), while they must be limited to six people in regions at the orange alert level and to 10 people in early warning regions (yellow).