Displaced 'snowbirds' looking for answers
SUDBURY -- It's a rite of passage for many Canadian seniors, to spend the winter months in warmer locales and then return to Canada for the summer, but this year has been anything but predictable.
The Ontario government with its state of emergency deemed campgrounds as non-essential businesses, forcing them to stay closed. There are however many Canadian 'snowbirds' who count their trailers as principal residences.
Sylvie Herard and her husband returned home to northern Ontario only to find their camp was not accessible due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
"We're in a bind, we wanted to come back but we had to find a place where we could do a quarantine and we managed to find this little place and we got lucky for a month but after that month we have nowhere to go," she said.
It's just one of several similar stories that Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas has been getting at her office. She's been trying to help her constituents on a case-by-case basis.
Gelinas says many of the 'snowbirds' she's been talking to adhered to what they were being told by the government, only to find the campground, otherwise known as their principal residences, closed.
"I was able to settle a few of them, mainly outside of the city of Greater Sudbury but right now we have phone calls to some of those inside the city fo Greater Sudbury and we are working on those right now," said Gelinas. "They're coming in more and more, I never realized that there was that many, they are legitimate, they are people and this is where they live."
"I would say the government has been open to making changes on a case-by-case, I would say they are very afraid to open up a loop-hole that would mean the next beautiful weekend a ton of people with their trailers go up to a campground and then the disease spreads," she explained.
Gelinas says she's received calls from across her riding, which is one of the more larger geographical constituencies in the provinces.
She believes this could be a problem for Northern Ontario given the number of campgrounds across the region. She cities Gogama, for example, which has five seasonal parks.
"Yes, the government wants to shut down campgrounds because what do we do at campgrounds, we're outside all of the time, we socialize and we have bonfires. Bonfires are not allowed, but this is the fun of camping and what it's all about. Do they want this? No, absolutely not. Did they mean to say they would make hundreds of people homeless by doing this? No, that was not their intent. This is what happens when you pass emergency legislation without looking at the fine details of it," said Gelinas.
For now, she says she remains committed to helping her constituents anyway she can and suggests anyone affected by this, should consider calling their MPP if all other avenues fail.
In the meantime, Herard says she's hopeful the government will come up with a solution for her predicament. She's also considering calling her MPP.
"We're hoping there's some leeway for the campgrounds to accommodate - to allow snowbirds to go their places," she said.
CTV News reached out to the office of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing which sent the following statement:
"Our government is aware of situations where snowbirds that spent part of the year in Ontario, but don't have a permanent Canadian address. We are currently looking at how we can continue to protect public safety while allowing seasonal campgrounds to remain open only for residents returning to Canada who have no other place to go. Hotels and motels continue to be listed as essential services and can accommodate those who need a place to stay."
CTV has also reached out to Camping in Ontario and the Canadian Snowbirds Association for comment.