On May 4th, Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner called on the Prime Minister to open outdoor spaces to allow for outdoor physical activities, which have been banned since April 8th among many other restrictions in the province to limit the spread of COVID-19. In fact, for more than a month now, the measures implemented in Ontario have imposed a strict “stay at home” policy in the province. Indoor and outdoor meetings with people outside the family household are prohibited. While parks and recreation areas remain open with safe distances, other outdoor locations such as outdoor sports facilities, golf courses, tennis courts, basketball courts or other multi-use areas and picnic sites remain closed.

In an address on the 4th of May, Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said Premier Ford “needs to reverse course and open up outdoor recreation facilities safely. Schreiner stressed the importance of following the science, listening, and acting on the advice of the Scientific Advisory Team, who assured that limiting safe outdoor activities will not limit the spread of COVID-19. “The 2020 year has shown the critical role science plays in addressing the public health crisis of COVID-19, and science tells us that safe outdoor recreation is important,” Schreiner explained in a May 13 announcement. “Dr. Juni of the Science Table is clear that low-risk outdoor activities should be allowed,” he added. 

The health measures in Ontario also highlight the role of social inequalities in the COVID crisis, particularly with these latest restrictive measures. “Many Ontarians live in overcrowded housing – not everyone has the privilege of a backyard or a private garden,” said Darren Ellias, press secretary for the Green Party of Ontario in an interview with Global Green News. “It’s a matter of economic and social equity, as well as mental health.

Indeed, it is now clear that the health crisis is leading to many mental health problems across generations. The ban on outdoor sports greatly limits the benefit that sport and physical activity can have on mental health. “It is important for people’s mental and physical health to be able to get outside and be active in the outdoors,” Schreiner explained. In addition, the policies implemented by Premier Ford in Ontario disproportionately affect children according to the Green Party of Ontario. “The Science Table is clear: policies that discourage safe outdoor activity will not limit the spread of COVID-19 and will disproportionately harm children and those who do not have access to their own green space,” Ellias told Global Green News.

Schreiner has publicly proposed alternatives to Premier Ford’s policies that advocate for up-front testing and workplace inspections of Ontarians to allow safe green space for all. “Instead of banning safe outdoor recreation, Ford needs to make high-risk workplaces safer, with measures such as 10 paid sick days, mandatory PPE, rapid testing, and more workplace inspections,” said Schreiner in his announcement. “It’s time for the Prime Minister to follow the science and focus on the areas where we know the virus is spreading. I urge Ford to open up outdoor spaces that are deemed safe now,” Schreiner concluded. 

Eva Julia van Dam

Hi! I am a Franco-Dutch student living in Montréal. Just graduated with a Bachelor degree in Political Science from McGill University, I have taken an interest throughout my studies in Journalism. I've worked with the McGill Tribune, the Bull & Bear and recently collaborate with La Gazette des Femmes in Quebec City. I have also been an associate editor with the McGill Historical Discourse. My areas of interest are international relations, cultural diplomacy, feminism and gender studies, environmental issues and journalism - I love to write, learn and grow and I'm exicted to work with Global Green News.

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