A border check point in L’Isle-aux-Allumettes over the Easter weekend.
OUTAOUAIS – Quebec Public Health’s mandate to curtail non-essential travel is confusing for many local residents, so the Journal reached out to Sûreté du Québec (SQ) information officer, Marc Tessier, for clarification.
Tessier stated police enforce the decrees set out by public health and the government, and he advised residents to consult the government’s website because of rapidly changing information.
As of April 16, the website stated: “All Quebecers are asked to avoid travelling from one region to another or from one city to another, except where necessary. To protect the most vulnerable populations, checkpoints will limit travel into and
out of certain territories.
Only essential travel will be authorized; for humanitarian reasons, parental custody arrangements, to work or to obtain healthcare and services.”
To determine if travel is for a valid reason – since there are always grey areas Tessier noted – officers use their judgement on a case-by-case basis. Tessier asks people to apply common sense, e.g. if you can access a service within your region, then you should, even if it means a slightly longer drive. “Checking on your cottage isn’t a good reason to travel, unless it is within the MRC where you reside,” said Tessier.
The travel restrictions are in place across Quebec, and could result in fines. As of April 13, the SQ issued 651 tickets, including immediate fines for crowds/gatherings and those the crown attorney processes. Tessier said precise numbers are
not available by region.
For Québec residents returning from outside their region, if the travel wasn’t for one of the approved reasons, police record their information and inform them to quarantine at home for 14 days. No fine is applied; they are just tracking who
is coming in and out, explained Tessier.
When asked about how many people were turned around and whether
long-line ups were a problem, Tessier was unable to provide details. “Yes,
people have been turned around, but we don’t have numbers.” He noted it was busier on Easter weekend.
Warden Jane Toller reported that police are patrolling for two hours a day, twice per day. Tessier confirmed this, but said it’s a minimum and more checkpoints are possible. Plus police are doing random stops at different hours throughout the province. He gave an example: “If someone is driving for essential purposes, stores in the city close by 9 pm, and after that there’s no reason to be on the road unless you’re an essential worker.”
Tessier concluded by recommending everyone just stay home. “The government’s website indicates what’s allowed or not. There will always be grey areas, and if in doubt, don’t go.”