Opinion: Fresh air should be considered essential in Quebec

Jan 15 2021, 1:02 pm

During a time where the term “essential” has been thrown around more than arguably any other period in the history of humanity, it seems odd that one of the most essential essentials is at a limited supply — fresh air.

Quebec’s new nightly curfew means most of the 8.4 million people in the province have to structure their days backwards from 8 pm.

How can I get as much fresh air as possible in the allocated time, assuming I finish work at 5 pm? Should I squeeze in a few minutes with Mother Nature before I start prepping and eating dinner or a bit before the nightly patrols begin?

It feels like the great outdoors has joined the likes of behind-yellow-taped non-essential items in Quebec. Fresh air, like nail polish, winter coats, scotch tape, disposable razors, winter boots, loose-leaf paper, and water filters are things that can no longer be taken at our own leisure.

I can walk into a pharmacy at 9:30 pm and buy over-the-counter drugs, a bag of Skittles, and a sugary pop, but my outdoor walk towards the store is the biggest no-no.

If you’re outside past 8 pm these days in Quebec without valid proof, you’re at risk of getting fined, disobeying public health orders, and even risking viral transmission. Unless of course, you have a dog, then power to you — enjoy your stroll (within a one-kilometre radius of your home, that is.)

Forget stockpiles of toilet paper, the fastest download speed, and all the streaming services, having a dog has become the newest must-have item in Quebec. Besides being man’s best friend, these furry little things are now your way of bypassing $6,000 tickets.

The hefty fines have also resulted in the fear of actually being outside. If you’re in transit anytime after 7 pm, you might notice some drivers seem to be driving a lot faster. Because zooming through a residential zone is fine now — so long as you get home before curfew, right?

Indoor activities have been limited since March but now the outdoors, in general, is being tampered with. An evening hike up the mountain in the fall was perfectly legal. But now, you have to beat the clock to get to the top and back home before 8 pm.

In an email with the Public Health Agency of Canada, a media relations employee told me that adults, including seniors, should be getting 20 minutes of outdoor time per day in order to reap the highest amount of health benefits.

Are you getting 20 minutes of daily fresh air since the curfew has gone into effect? Because I spent the first Monday after curfew with actually zero minutes outside. Quebec has shaved 10 hours off of outdoor time to the clock every day. After work and dinner on weekdays, we realistically only have an hour of outdoor time a day and it feels like a chore to schedule in fresh air time on a daily basis.

On the third day of curfew, I took my garbage out at 8:04 pm (and I’ve never felt more alive.)

Tyler JadahTyler Jadah

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