By The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Canada took more small steps toward resuming normal life on Thursday as stores in Alberta prepared to open their doors and the federal government announced the reopening of some national parks and historic sites.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said some federal parks and historic sites across the country would reopen June 1 for some activities, including trails, day use areas and green spaces.
Speaking in Ottawa, Trudeau noted that the coming May long weekend would look different this year due to the ongoing shutdowns and distancing restrictions.
“But this isn’t forever,” he said.
“Canadians have been doing the right things these past many weeks, and that’s why we can announce some good news for the weeks ahead.”
Since the deadly virus that causes COVID-19 sent the country into lockdown in mid-March, all national parks and historic sites have been closed, with visitor services and all motor vehicle access suspended.
Trudeau said the choice of which parks would be allowed to open would align with the decisions of provincial and local governments.
In order to protect vulnerable communities, Trudeau said all pleasure boating will be banned starting June 1 in Canada’s Arctic coastal waters, as well as those in northern Quebec and Labrador.
The gradual reopenings are to be accompanied by measures designed to ensure the safety of visitors and workers.
Alberta, meanwhile, begins implementing today the first phase of its relaunch strategy, with retail stores, hair salons, museums, daycares and day camps allowed to open, with restrictions. Restaurants and cafes can also reopen but only at half capacity.
The reopenings apply across the province, except in Calgary and Brooks, which will have to wait until May 25.
Calgary’s rate of infection is more than twice that of the provincial average, and Brooks is struggling with a spike in cases linked to a meat-packing plant in the city.
Premier Doug Ford is set to disclose today the details for the first stage of Ontario’s reopening, although it’s not expected to be implemented for some time yet. The first stage is expected to include some seasonal businesses, low-risk workplaces and essential services.
Although Ontario’s caseload has been trending downward, the province’s chief public health officer, Dr. David Williams, said earlier this week it’s not falling rapidly enough yet to allow for first stage reopenings.
Quebec, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia have all taken some tentative first steps toward reopening their economies. But Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Yukon have not yet lifted restrictions.