Operators of Quebec arts and culture centres argue double standard about COVID-19 lockdowns

Emilee Geist

As Montreal moves into the red zone, the final level of Quebec’s regional COVID-19 alert system, new restrictions and a partial lockdown are being put in place. © Courtesy: OSM OSM musicians on stage at the Maison Symphonique in Montreal Museums, libraries, concert halls, performing arts centres and other similar […]

As Montreal moves into the red zone, the final level of Quebec’s regional COVID-19 alert system, new restrictions and a partial lockdown are being put in place.



a group of people performing on stage in front of a crowd: OSM musicians on stage at the Maison Symphonique in Montreal


© Courtesy: OSM
OSM musicians on stage at the Maison Symphonique in Montreal

Museums, libraries, concert halls, performing arts centres and other similar venues will have to shutter for 28 days beginning Oct. 1, forcing the cancellation of dozens of performances and exhibits.

Operators of arts and cultural centres are crying foul, saying they’re being forced to close while people who manage other indoor establishments can stay open.

“Having the announcement that we were among the first to close this time was actually very surprising,” Pascale Grignon, the McCord Museum’s communications director, told Global News.

Read more: Red alert level brings partial 28-day lockdown to 3 Quebec regions including Montreal, Quebec City

The museum is currently hosting a Christian Dior exhibition but it’s being cut short.

And Susanna Malkki, a guest music conductor of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal (OSM) from Finland, will be able to perform only one of three scheduled concerts before a live audience at the Maison Symphonique Concert Hall. The other two, scheduled for Oct. 1 and 2, will have to be performed with no audience.

“We accept it and we will do it but there is a lot of questions in our head,” said OSM CEO Madeleine Careau.

Some of the questions being raised have to do with why arts and culture venues are being targeted but not others. Indoor gymnasiums, hockey arenas, tennis clubs and other indoor sporting facilities are allowed to remain open.

“My belief is that when it comes to cultural institutions, the reason that they’re closed down, it’s not scientific,” said Mathieu Murphy-Perron, executive director of the Tableau D’Hôte Theatre Company.

Read more: Stay home and don’t gather in parks as Montreal enters partial coronavirus lockdown, mayor pleads

Murphy-Perron says the people being affected the most are the artists and other workers in the theatre industry.

“Who’s hurt most is the individual workers,” he said.

The issue was raised at a press conference Tuesday afternoon with Quebec Premier François Legualt and other health officials.

Quebec’s public health director would only say there are no large contact tracing numbers pointing to a single source.

“I think they are not at all perfect. They are not the kind of data I like to work with,” Dr. Horacio Arruda said.

Read more: Quebec will use federal coronavirus exposure app amid second wave

Many in the arts and culture industry just hope the latest partial shutdown won’t be extended beyond Oct. 28.

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