The Long Point Ratepayers’ Association, an organization that advocates for the welfare of Long Point, Ont., a community on the north shore of Lake Erie, has filed an appeal against the Section 22 class order limiting people from accessing their cottages in Norfolk and Haldimand counties.
Shanker Nesathurai, chief medical officer for the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, approved the order on April 23. Property owners were not made aware of the order until it arrived in their mailboxes on May 1. The order was served to 43,000 people, targeting all Haldimand and Norfolk property owners who have primary residences outside of the area.
“We hope that Haldimand-Norfolk’s medical officer takes Williams’ guidance and removes this order so that we do not need to move further with an appeal,” Deans says. Under the HPPA, those served have 15 days to appeal the order. The association’s appeal will be heard by the provincial Health Services Appeal and Review Board at a future date.
During this time, Krystal Chopp, Norfolk County’s mayor, says Nesathurai will continue to reevaluate the order.
Nesathurai has said it, which falls under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, was enacted to limit the spread of COVID-19 from high-risk areas, such as Toronto, to Haldimand and Norfolk counties. The area currently has 201 positive cases and experienced 30 deaths after the virus infiltrated a local long-term care home.
The order restricts property owners from occupying their secondary residences, including cottages, chalets, and condominiums. It also prohibits the operation of short-term rentals and closed recreational facilities, such as parks, trails, and beaches. Anyone who breaches this order could face a fine of $5,000 a day.
“The order came as a shock given easing of restrictions across the province,” says Karen Deans, president of the Long Point Ratepayers’ Association. During a conference call last week with over 100 mayors across Ontario, Premier Doug Ford talked about slowly reopening cottage country. He also stated during a press conference on May 4 that “There’s only so long that you can hold back taxpayers from going to their cottages.” Ford has since acknowledged he ignored public health advice to check on his cottage over the Easter long weekend due to a history of burst pipes.
The Haldimand-Norfolk area appears to be the only place in Ontario to have made it illegal for cottagers to access their properties. All other municipalities have stuck with strong discouragement to keep cottagers at home. “We are calling for the cancellation of Nesathurai’s order so that our members are treated the same as all other Ontarians with a cottage,” Deans says.
The cottage community backlash over the Section 22 order has Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer David Williams weighing in. On May 3, he sent a memo to chief medical officers across the province, recommending that “medical officers of health do not issue Section 22 class orders under the HPPA prohibiting access to these residents.” Instead, he suggests continuing to provide communications that discourage their use.