'Plate-shaming' is happening in Atlantic Canada as locals fear those from outside the 'bubble'
TORONTO -- Atlantic Canada’s reputation for being warm and welcoming has long been a source of pride.
But instead of hospitality, the pandemic is exposing a glimpse of hostility aimed at those who are assumed to be outsiders.
"Being from Halifax, growing up here all but eight years of my life, I really didn't expect this,” resident Tony Mountenay told CTV News.
Tony and Debbie Mountenay chose to return to Nova Scotia during the pandemic because they were looking for a laid back retirement.
As required, they isolated after they arrived. But then they decided to go out and run errands.
"And we had three different incidents where people came up beside us, yelling at us, through the window, and when it first happened, we had to try to think, well what was that about?” Debbie said.
The answer was the licence plate on their truck — showing that they came from Ontario.
Visitors from beyond the “Atlantic bubble” have been vilified by locals fearing the virus could be imported.
Though relatively rare, there have been incidents of “plate-shaming.”
A woman from Quebec was told to go home while walking on a New Brunswick beach.
More than 15,000 Newfoundlanders signed a petition demanding their province not open the border to anyone.
Debbie said one woman who had harassed the couple had done so in front of her own children.
“She really shouldn't have been doing that in my opinion,” she said. “Another man, you could tell he was out of control."
The Atlantic bubble, which encompasses the provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, is a concept that was introduced recently to allow easier travel between the Eastern provinces as the region reopens.
People from all across Canada are allowed to travel to any Atlantic province, but those outside of the Atlantic bubble must isolate for 14 days — as leaders in the region are quick to remind people.
"The Atlantic bubble is open today, [but] that does not apply to those who are from Ontario, Quebec or Western Canada,” Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said. “If you're coming into our province, you're required to self isolate as well."
The Atlantic provinces have largely fared well during the pandemic compared to provinces such as Ontario or Quebec. Of the Atlantic provinces, Nova Scotia has had the most cases in total, at just over 1,000 — a far cry from Quebec’s 56,521 cumulative cases.
The stress for locals in the Atlantic provinces is that out-of-bubble visitors could lead to a second wave of the virus.
Only last week, a string of new cases in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island were proven to be related to travel from outside of the bubble. One individual flew from the United States to Toronto, and then to Halifax. This case was then connected to cases in Prince Edward Island.
McNeil said on July 6 that he is frustrated with travellers who do not isolate for the 14 days after they arrive.
“We have worked hard together and sacrificed so much in this province to help flatten the curve only to have some people come into our province who think they’re above it all, who think that the rules don’t apply to them,” he said. “Guess what? They do.”
But the Mountenay’s experience in Nova Scotia suggests that the uncertainty over who has isolated and who has not has led to some rather un-neighbourly behaviour.
In response, the couple has come with a way to alert people they’re not a threat. A piece of paper that clearly states a person has completed isolation.
"I don't want to get [COVID-19],” Debbie said. “And I don't want to give it to anybody."