Cottagers in Long Point fight back against local health unit order
LONG POINT, ONT. -- The view from his patio chairs behind his cottage is exactly why John Henderson wants approval to access to his Long Point cottage.
He is part of the Long Point Ratepayers Association (LPRA), which has filed an appeal against a section 22 class order imposed by the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU).
Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, chief medical officer for the HNHU, approved the order on April 23 forbidding residents from outside the two counties from accessing vacation properties in the counties until further notice.
The order restricts property owners from occupying their secondary residences, including cottages, chalets, and condominiums, as well as other closed amenities. Anyone who breaches this order could face a fine of $5,000 a day.
"Our main concern is discrepancy between those allowed and not allowed," says Henderson, a board member with the LPRA.
"We support the provincial order and understand that social distancing is the key to fighting COVID-19. However we now have neighbours side-by-side that can and cannot visit their property depending on where their other residence is in Ontario."
The ratepayers say Haldimand-Norfolk is the only place in Ontario to have made it illegal for cottagers to access their properties.
Nesathurai cites a lack of intensive care beds in the county for taking a cautious approach in the fight against COVID-19.
His messaging is simple ahead of the Victoria Day long weekend.
"Unless you have a compelling reason to leave your house, stay at home," says Nesathurai.
Along the causeway at Sandboy Marina, Robyn Hanson says this order has been devastating.
"We are dependent on the cottagers in area," says Hanson.
"We were very busy a few weeks ago, and then the order came out and everyone disappeared. We are stocked up on groceries and everyone went home."
The ratepayers have secured legal counsel and have been asked by the Health Services Appeal and Review Board to participate at a pre-hearing. They have accepted and the LPRA status will be heard May 20.
Nesathurai says he understands that people have the right to challenge a public health order.
"We have to balance public health priorities of district against preferences of any particular citizen or resident," he says. "We will work to articulate the perspective of the public health service if we go before a review panel."
Back by the lake, Henderson says this is his home and feels many of these residents can self-isolate better on these properties than they can in urban areas.
"We have no problem with fighting COVID but if you are safe if you are doing everything properly let’s leave these people alone."