“They are here”: the weekend warriors dodge the COVID-19 and make fun of themselves by hiding in a country of chalets


A call came this week to the Bala Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police regarding an overturned boat spotted from the shore.

In a normal summer, it would be a routine emergency for officers in the heart of the Muskoka cabin country. In the midst of a spring pandemic, however, with police boats still on land, it was a nuisance that put emergency responders in unnecessary contact with each other, and ultimately for nothing.

He also illustrated a social dynamic that takes place across Canada, from the Kootenays to the Outaouais, while the rich take advantage of their opportunities for private rural isolation, the local snitches call the reports of the city people, the mayors are trying to keep a lid on all of this with serious social conscience appeal and provincial governments are imposing travel bans that do not follow enforceable legal orders.

There is no doubt that people are hiding now in Muskoka

The “ship” in Muskoka turned out to be a pedal boat that was floating empty after jumping from a dock in a windstorm. To be fair, the wind does not discriminate. It could have belonged to a year-old local resident who obeyed quarantine advice and got out of his pedal boat the same week that the ice came out. Local officials, however, have other suspicions. Losing a pedal boat after a long weekend is a fairly classic “weekend warrior” movement.

“They are here,” said Phil Harding, mayor of Muskoka Lakes Township, which has a full-time population of approximately 6,500 people, who more than triple seasonally with these warriors and other seasonal residents, including many from Toronto. .

“There is no doubt that people are hiding in Muskoka now,” he says. He estimates that there are perhaps 1,500 recreational cottage owners who are flouting the government’s soft advice against unnecessary chalet travel. It’s hard to chastise people who try to take care of themselves and their families as best they can, he says, but that’s how it is. “If we lock ourselves up now, we could actually have a summer. “

Advice on violators has come, reports on too many cars, but there is nothing formal to do except encourage everyone to stay put for the good of all.

“Urban residents should avoid moving to rural properties because these places have less capacity to manage COVID-19,” said Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, in early April.

Not everyone took the message to heart, and last week the East Kootenay Regional District asked the government of British Columbia to close the Alberta border to keep leisure travelers away.

The issue reached the Prime Minister’s office when Justin Trudeau’s wife Sophie released a photo showing him and their children over Easter weekend at Harrington Lake, the official retirement near Ottawa. Trudeau said he followed the advice of health officials.

“After three weeks of my family’s life in Harrington and my stay here, I went to join them for Easter,” said Trudeau. “We continue to follow all instructions from public health authorities.”

However, it invited the shame that swirled around the reports of people fleeing to their country properties, chalets, chalets and houses by the lake.

It is partly for jealousy that they even have the opportunity. But it is also for the disregard that they would put other people at risk by unnecessary travel, and by adding more potential pressure to small rural emergency services.

A photo published by Sophie Grégoire Trudeau of herself and Justin Trudeau with their three children at their cottage.


Traveling exposes people to car accidents, breakdowns and even unexpected bathroom breaks, all of which can unnecessarily spread infection. Even in the happy isolation of the city’s grocery store, people still have heart attacks, strokes, slips and falls, accidents that cut firewood, all kinds of things that could put a new cohort of people in immediate contact with rural emergency responders.

“The chances of something happening are increasing,” said Harding. “This is really a fundamental problem that explains why I encourage people not to come north (from Toronto to Muskoka). I certainly hope it’s more convincing. I hope to be able to appeal to people with this social conscience. “

Some one-year-old residents have become almost “vigilant” about it, he says, not actually practicing physical revenge on intruders, but expressing opinions like “Go away, don’t make us sick” .

“My simple reality is that the province has made a lot of suggestions,” said Harding.

A fire ban is in place that covers all fires, including small camp fires, but people have fireplaces. The only boats authorized to launch in marinas are those serving permanent residences that are only accessible by water, but this is a rare real estate category. Most people can drive.

Holiday cottages on Baskatong lake in Quebec.

Getty Images

“They haven’t done it yet so you can’t get to your cottage yet,” says Harding.

People worry about words like “yet”.

The future has come more and more recently. “Yet” seems closer than ever. Canada has gone from a slight concern about distant cruise ships to national locking in about a month. Victoria Day is coming soon and people will be in desperate need of fun on weekends. What could it look like by then? The police checkpoints on the way to the country from the chalets do not seem so far away, not when the police are already distributing tickets to stroll through the parks.

So, for those who can, the decision to go to the chalet is a big tempting bet, which makes the work of rural mayors even more difficult.

“The advice is to stay home except for essential reasons,” said Ann McDiarmid, mayor of the township of Seguin, north of Muskoka, in a letter to residents.

– With files from Ryan Tumilty

• Email: [email protected] | Twitter:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here