July 11, 2020

19° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast

Close this


Advertise With Us

Rule differences frustrate Ontarian

In normal times, Gilbert Desroches and his wife make the trek from Laclu, Ont., to visit their daughter and grandchildren in Winnipeg every two weeks.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing border closures, it’s now been more than two months since the pair have been able to travel across the Manitoba-Ontario border to spend time with their family and friends, or visit the doctor for non-emergent medical procedures, despite rules allowing Manitobans onto their side of the divide.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>People enjoy Rushing River Provincial Park, just east of Kenora. The Manitoba and Ontario governments have a 50-kilometre buffer zone inside northwestern Ontario, where Manitoba residents are free to cross over and return home without a mandated 14-day isolation period.</p></p>


People enjoy Rushing River Provincial Park, just east of Kenora. The Manitoba and Ontario governments have a 50-kilometre buffer zone inside northwestern Ontario, where Manitoba residents are free to cross over and return home without a mandated 14-day isolation period.

"We’re grandparents and love to see our grandkids as often as we can," Desroches said in an interview Sunday. "We Facetime, so you can talk to them every day if you want ... but it’s not like the real thing. Most of the time we’re in Winnipeg every couple weeks."

Manitoba and Ontario governments have held a 50-kilometre buffer zone inside northwestern Ontario — including Laclu and the Kenora area — where Manitoba residents are free to cross over and return home without a mandated 14-day isolation period. As part of Manitoba’s first reopening phase on May 4, the province gave the green light to seasonal cottagers looking to escape to their second homes, including those on the Ontario side of the border.

But for Desroches and other Ontarians with roots in Winnipeg, the rules are still more stringent. Any cross-border travel for the Ontario residents would mandate 14 days of self-isolation, time Desroches doesn’t want to spend away from his family in the city. Desroches, who is a frequent blood donor, said he’s been unable to donate blood at his usual clinics because they require those two weeks of isolation first.

"I guess it seems incongruous that Manitobans can come over ... they come here they go back home, there’s no self isolation. Yet I can’t go to Winnipeg without self-isolating," he said.

"If Manitobans are allowed to come here within the 50-kilometre rule and everybody’s happy, well I think we would be happy if we could do the same."

Desroches said life on either side of the border is still starkly different. Where Manitoba announced Friday that indoor public gatherings could increase to a maximum of 25 people while outdoor gatherings would be capped at 50 people, Ontario’s gatherings are still restricted to five at a time.

As Manitoba began lifting restrictions to allow businesses to reopen, Kenora Mayor Dan Reynard was warning cottagers to stay home if possible, and avoid the popular Lake of the Woods area where business restrictions were still in place.

Desroches said he finds the rules for Ontarians to be a confusing double standard. While he agrees with the motive behind the restrictions, Desroches said the Kenora community has been maintaining strict public safety regulations, and residents should be allowed to travel safely and freely into the big city.

"If we were a hotbed for COVID-19 I would say no, I agree, but we’ve hardly had any cases and they’re very old at this point," he said.

Desroches is hoping that northwestern Ontario residents who live within the 50-kilometre buffer zone will be allowed to come and go with ease as part of the province’s next reopening phase, which is set to come into effect no earlier than June 1. In that phase, restaurants and bars would be allowed to open, indoor dining areas, tattoo parlours will be allowed to operate again with limited capacity, and non-contact adult and children’s sports would resume.

Last week, Premier Brian Pallister released a draft plan for the second phase of reopenings, however, no date was set for the changes. Pallister said there would be public consultation and the plan could be pushed back if pandemic numbers rise.

Manitoba announced no new cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday morning, with the total lab-confirmed and probable positive cases holding steady at 292. No one was being treated in hospital. There were 17 active cases and 268 individuals have recovered from COVID-19. The number of deaths due to COVID-19 remains at seven.

As of Saturday, an additional 729 laboratory tests were performed, bringing the total number of tests performed since early February to 38,599. Now, Manitoba is beginning to test people without symptoms for COVID-19 as part of a sentinel surveillance program to track the circulation of the coronavirus. Health officials hope to collect a random sampling of swabs from Manitobans at health-care facilities and community screening sites.

The province’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, said a decision on a date for the next phase of changes would likely come soon.


Twitter: @jsrutgers

Julia-Simone Rutgers

Julia-Simone Rutgers

Julia-Simone Rutgers is a general-assignment reporter.

Read full biography


Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press will close this commenting platform at noon on July 14.

We want to thank those who have shared their views over the years as part of this reader engagement initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Free Press will announce new opportunities for readers to share their thoughts and to engage with our staff and each other.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.


Advertise With Us