Hallowe’en hasn’t been “cancelled” in Ontario, but health and safety must take priority


“Shiver me timbers!  Batten down the hatches!  Release the hounds, Smithers!  Doug Ford just cancelled Hallowe’en!”

This partially sums up the litany of yelling, screaming, whining and complaining that occurred on Monday.  People from all walks of life believed the Premier of Ontario had actually cancelled this fun, spooky celebration.  Houses normally adorned with everything from candle-lit pumpkins to fake tombstones would have to be systematically deconstructed.  Nary a ghost nor ghoul would appear in the moonlight with haunting music in the background.  Children dressed up in costumes, excitedly going door-to-door and getting an abundance of candy wouldn’t be a thing in 2020, either.

Sounds rather awful and heartbreaking.  Except not a single word of it was true.

Here’s part of the official statement released by Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, on Oct. 19: 

As Ontarians begin to prepare for Halloween this year, I’d like to remind everyone to take extra precautions to ensure you are keeping yourself and your families safe. 

Given the high transmission of COVID-19 in the modified Stage 2 public health unit regions of Ottawa, Peel, Toronto and York Region, traditional door-to-door trick or treating is not recommended and people should consider alternative ways to celebrate.

Take a closer look. Williams specifically said Hallowe’en was “not recommended” for Ontario’s four hot spots due to COVID-19.  This isn’t defined as a restriction, ban or cancellation in any dictionary.  There’s no hidden meaning, ulterior motive or grand conspiracy going on behind the scenes by either Ford, or senior government and health officials.

The Ontario government didn’t “cancel” Hallowe’en, ladies and gentlemen.  It will still be held in every part of the province on October 31, including the four hot spots.  Kids can go out and get heaps of candy at night – and the ghosts, goblins, skeletons, bats, witches and wizards can raise cain to their heart’s content!

At the same time, Williams did recommend other activities that Ontario families could potentially do during Hallowe’en.  This included ideas like “virtual activities and parties,” pumpkin carving, movie night, decorating the lawn and “organizing a Halloween candy hunt with people living in their own household.” 

There are other fun activities that parents could consider if they don’t feel comfortable in having their children going out trick or treating.  But if they want to take them outside, or let them go with a small group of friends, then no-one is stopping them.

We can and should debate the pros and cons of the Ontario government’s decision, but let’s ensure the messaging is clear.  

Could Ontario or any province have put the kibosh on Hallowe’en?  Yes. 

Provincial and municipal governments, along with Ottawa, could have theoretically introduced legislation to cancel Hallowe’en based on possible health and safety concerns.  It could have passed as a temporary measure for the period of one calendar year, and been left open-ended to be potentially extended in 2021, 2022 and beyond.

Government and health officials could have also taken the position that Hallowe’en had the potential to become a superspreader for the coronavirus.  Large amounts of children and adults in close proximity would have increased congestion on our streets and neighbourhoods, and possibly led to a severe, short-term spike in active COVID-19 cases.  If provincial hospitals were already getting stretched to the limit with non-COVID-19 patients, this could have turned into a major health disaster.

Would this have been the right move for any Canadian political leader to take?  No.

Doctors and health officials have repeatedly informed us the spread of COVID-19 is dramatically reduced in the great outdoors.  That’s why they recommend people of all ages spend more time outside, where we don’t need to constantly worry about wearing masks but employ proper amounts of social and physical distancing.  This also gives our children time to play and socialize with one another.

Children will also be wearing non-medical masks when going trick or treating – and, in certain cases, an additional Hallowe’en mask on top.  That’s plenty of protection, when you think about it. 

As well, there are creative ways to give out candy.  The Alberta government has suggested families “build a candy slide, candy catapult or other fun, non-touch delivery methods.”  CBC has shown a few parents in Calgary and Edmonton using these homemade chutes and tubes on camera.  They really work, and it’s a novel approach to maintaining physical distancing and making children happy. 

To make a long story short, Canadians will ultimately do what they feel is best.  If parents are comfortable taking or letting their children go out trick or treating, they will.  If they decide to turn off the lights or do something different this year, that’s their choice to make. 

Rest assured that Hallowe’en will still be celebrated in all Canadian provinces, including Doug Ford’s Ontario.  Have a boo’tiful and scary time, everyone!


Photo Credit: Toronto Star

More from Michael Taube.   @michaeltaube

Michael Taube, a long-time newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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