Quebec Gym Owners Call for ‘Health Protest’ After Fine Threats From Premier

October 28, 2020 Updated: October 28, 2020

Quebec gym owners are calling on supporters to join their “health protest” on Oct. 29, in response to the province’s extended lockdown orders.

Quebec Premier François Legault announced on Oct. 26 that the province will extend its lockdown orders across regions under the government’s highest pandemic-alert levels—including Montreal and Quebec City—from Oct. 28 to Nov. 23. Bars, restaurant dining areas, gyms and entertainment venues were ordered to close.

On Oct. 26, a coalition of more than 250 gym owners threatened to open their doors this week unless the government could provide data showing gyms had been linked to outbreaks, saying gyms were essential to people’s health and wellbeing during the pandemic. Legault responded by warning gym owners that the province would ask the police to fine them and their clients if they refused to follow directives.

On Wednesday, gym owners backed down on plans to defy lockdown orders, instead calling on their clients to instead join them in a series of protests outside their gyms and fitness studios on Oct. 29.

“This protest, peaceful and in accordance with the health rules in force, will be the first step in a movement that we want to see grow so that the Legault government realizes that it cannot govern only for the Covid, but that it must do for the physical and mental health of 8.5 million people,” said an Oct. 28 release from the coalition.

In the release, the owners also condemned the premier’s “authoritarian drift” and threats to “attack our customers” with fines.

All three of the province’s opposition parties have called on the Legault government to justify its decisions regarding COVID-19 restrictions or risk eroding Quebecers’ trust.

Legault told reporters on Oct. 27 that he doesn’t believe there’s a widespread problem with public trust and that “we are doing our best with the information we have.”

“The vast majority of Quebecers understand that right now we can’t open restaurants, that we can’t open gyms, that there’s a big risk of contagion,” he said.

Quebec reported 17 more deaths linked to the coronavirus on Oct. 28. Health authorities said they confirmed 929 cases of COVID-19 in the province in the past 24 hours.

Hospitalizations dropped by one compared with the prior day, for a total of 526, and of those, 89 people were in intensive care, a decrease of two.

Quebec has reported a total of 102,814 cases of COVID-19 and 6,189 deaths attributed to the virus. The province conducted 20,667 COVID-19 tests on Oct. 26, the last day for which testing data is available.

With files from the Canadian Press