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Going to the cottage is not essential, Gatineau mayor says, as police stop non-essential crossings
GATINEAU, QC. -- The mayor of Gatineau is urging Ontario residents and travelers to stay home and only cross the Ottawa River into Quebec if necessary.
Going to the cottage, he says, is not necessary.
On Wednesday, Quebec Provincial Police and Gatineau Police began setting up random checkpoints at crossings between Gatineau and Ottawa in an effort to limit non-essential travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking on CTV Morning Live on Thursday morning, Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin said the checkpoints would likely be in place until the pandemic is over.
"The goal is to send a message. People go through if they have a valid reason," he said. "We understand it wouldn't be possible to close the border, nobody wishes that, but too many people are on the road for not valid reasons."
Pedneaud-Jobin said the goal is not to fine people, but to raise awareness about the need to limit travel; however, he admitted fines are possible.
"If their reason [to cross the border] is not valid, they could be sent home, but if they don’t cooperate they could face a fine from $1000 to $6000, but Premier [Francois] Legault said that's not the goal."
A complaint the mayor of Gatineau said he's heard from other mayors in the Outaouais is cottagers traveling between Quebec and Ontario for the weekend.
"We've seen a lot of people going to their cottages, not to stay there, but they go for the weekend and they stop at the grocery store and they stop at the gas station," he said. "Those kinds of trips are not necessary. They should stay home. Go to the cottage after this crisis."
His words echo advice from mayors in cottage country in Ontario as well. Many rural areas are not well-equipped to handle an influx of visitors, should they get sick.
Pedneaud-Jobin said officers will be enforcing the rule for as long as necessary.
"This virus is a major threat and so, as long as we feel that it's necessary and too many people are on the street without essential reasons, we'll continue doing that," he said.
When asked if measures could escalate, he said he hopes it doesn't get to that.
"We're sad to see that we have to do this, we're good neighbours, and we work together, so I wouldn't like to go further, but the threat is the virus and we have to take every measure at our disposal to save people's lives," he said. "When I see what's happening in Italy, when I look at mayors crying on the Internet and begging people to stay home because they have hundreds of dead people around them, we don't want to go there. Right now is the right time to be disciplined. Right now is the right time for tough measures. It may be too late in a few weeks, so I stand firm on that decision by the Quebec government."
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says there is no plan to put police on the Ontario side of the border.