Hawkesbury council held a special meeting on October 23 to discuss if it should discourage trick-or-treating on the town’s streets on Halloween night. The consensus was that allowing—or not allowing trick-or-treating is not for town council to decide.
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit has recommended against trick-or-treating in communities under its jurisdiction this Halloween and has suggested families and communities have alternative activities at home or online.
Interim Chief Administrative officer Dominique Dussault noted that Hawkesbury’s location on the provincial boundary could cause some trick-or-treating traffic into Québec because the EOHU has recommended people do not go door-to-door and that the Québec government has stated trick-or-treating is okay as long as a series of rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are followed. She said that if going door-to-door was discouraged by council in Hawkesbury, people might decide to trick-or-treat in Grenville or other nearby communities instead.
Councillor Lawrence Bogue questioned if council had the authority to decide if trick-or-treating should be allowed or not.
Councillor Yves Paquette agreed with Bogue and wondered if council had to decide when the Eastern Ontario Health Unit has already recommended against trick-or-treating.
“I think that Halloween is inherently a safe activity,” said Councillor Antonios Tsourounakis.
He said that people are generally walking around and not mixing closely with others. Tsourounakis suggested that if parents are concerned, they could “quarantine” the candy their children receive trick-or-treating for a week before letting them eat it, and in the meantime, give them candy purchased at the store.
“I think that outlawing Halloween is beyond the scope of the council,” said Tsourounakis.
He said that parents should decide if their children can go trick-or-treating or not, or if they want to give out candy at their homes.
Councillor Robert Lefebvre said that the EOHU has the authority to prohibit trick-or-treating, and that Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis could issue an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act forbidding it. No such order has been made.
Lefebvre said that trick-or-treaters from neighbouring rural areas of Québec are more likely to come to Hawkesbury because they can go to more homes and get more candy quickly in town than in the country. He also predicted, based on conversations he has had with friends and neighbours, that far fewer Hawkesbury residents are planning to give out candy this Halloween.
Mayor Paula Assaly noted that Hawkesbury’s high COVID-19 case number is mostly the result of the serious outbreak at the Prescott and Russell Residence. She said that it appeared council was content to let people decide for themselves if they should participate in Halloween activities.
Council agreed that allowing—or not allowing trick-or-treating is not its responsibility but agreed that the town will display the Halloween recommendations of the EOHU on the municipal website and Facebook page.