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Burlington tribute motorcades limited to five vehicles

The City of Burlington says it will not allow vehicle parades and processions of more than five vehicles to continue, saying they violate provincial emergency measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

“These drive-by celebrations have a small but powerful, positive influence on the participants, the recipients as well as the surrounding neighbourhoods and we need to find a way to support them in a controlled and legal manner,” the city said in a statement issued Thursday. “Some of these have grown significantly in size, duration and frequency.” Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward  says the motorcades have been attracting crowds of spectators, increasing the risk of contact.

All over Ontario and much of the rest of the world, vehicle processions and parades have been used as a way for members of the public to show support for frontline healthcare workers in hospitals and long-term care homes. They’ve also been used to celebrate birthdays and other milestones while maintain physical distance for all those involved by driving past someone’s home instead of going inside. The ban will also not affect those staged by police, fire and ambulance.

Asked Friday about the ban, Toronto Mayor John Tory said he dislikes commenting on the actions of another GTA mayor, but said no similar edict would be made in Toronto. “It’s not anything I am going to be turning my attention to for even two minutes today or any other day I don’t think but everyone has got to do their own thing in terms of what Burlington officials feel is right for Burlington. I can’t imagine it’s a big problem but maybe it is.” In a similar vein, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said he likes the parades that have taken place in his community. The Bay Observer contacted a Burlington communications spokesperson to find out if there was a specific incident or incidents that had triggered the edict. We received the following response:

The rationale that was made with consultation with Halton police, Burlington Fire, Halton Paramedics, Halton Region Public Health and City of Burlington leadership in the Emergency Control Group is outlined in the guidelines the City sent out in its release yesterday, but we’re also happy to provide it here.

The Emergency Support Processions that have been taking place in Burlington take place on major arterial roads, have a police escort, participants are well-educated on proper safety measures (including using personal protection equipment PPEs, if necessary) and have radio support, are short will now take place once a month, with a planned route in advance and with traffic control assistance.

Some of the community events had grown to 150+ vehicles and motorcycles, with a staging area at a mall, going through residential streets not built for this, up to 6-12 addresses throughout the city, and the potential to attract crowds, at the staging area and along the route.

The organizers who were planning another event this weekend larger in scale asked the city for advice and guidance. We consulted provincial emergency orders and Halton Region Public Health for guidance, as we always do, and we shared that guidance with the community.

The organizers have said they understand and will adhere to these guidelines, and have shown respect and support for them, and I’m grateful for that.

We have provided a way for these events to continue in a safer way to all involved including drivers, pedestrians, and participants. In one case, an individual is providing a “window of time” of an hour for people to make their own way to a drive by location – there is no staging, queuing or risk of gatherings and won’t be larger than 5 vehicles at a time. This is a reasonable solution and adheres to the guidelines.

We are not creating a new bylaw or any tickets. There are existing traffic and provincial orders  already that guide gatherings and traffic rules. Our parade guidelines aim to strike a balance between public health advice, provincial orders and finding a safer way for these events to continue. We always ask for compliance first, and educate before issuing tickets and we’ll do that in this case. Residents of Burlington are reasonable and they’ll find a way to do this while respecting the guidelines provincial emergency orders and advice of public health.

These events can continue.

We know residents will be reasonable and find ways to continue to show support, while also adhering to provincial emergency orders and public health advice, which we must all do.

And after this is over the Mayor and City are hoping to have a big Burlington party, and parade, to celebrate!

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