Ontario government lifts capacity limits for organized events outdoors

TORONTO – The Ontario government will begin allowing large-scale organized events outdoors immediately, paving the way for full capacity Remembrance Day ceremonies and Santa Claus parades in the coming weeks.

The regulatory amendments, which were approved on Wednesday, effectively lift the capacity limits for all organized public events held outdoors so long as attendees wear masks when a physical distance of two metres cannot be maintained.

The amendments also remove the outdoor capacity limits in the handful of sectors where they had remained.

That means that ski hills and other outdoor recreational amenities can operate without capacity limits, as can festivals and the outdoor areas of fairs and rural exhibitions. Proof-of-vaccination will continue to be required in outdoor settings where the capacity is 20,000 or more.

Outdoor social gatherings will also continue to be capped at 100 people for the time being.

The changes come after the Ford government lifted indoor capacity limits for most settings where proof-of-vaccination is required on Monday, including bars, restaurants and gyms.

The Ford government has also indicated that it plans to lift all remaining public health requirements by the end of March, including the mandatory masking order.

At this point it remains unclear whether the regulatory changes will result in a slew of major events this winter.

Organizers of the Toronto Santa Claus Parade recently announced that the event would be broadcast-only for the second year in a row, in part because many of the children who typically attend the event cannot yet be vaccinated.

But in Brampton officials have announced plans to hold several annual events in-person this fall and winter, including a Remembrance Day ceremony, the Winter Lights Festival and several Halloween events.

“I am very pleased with today’s announcement by the Ontario government that will lift capacity limits for organized outdoor events. This was long overdue,” Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said in a statement on Thursday afternoon. “If we can have 20,000 people indoors at sporting events, there is no reason we cannot have our traditional large outdoor events like Remembrance Day Services, Santa Claus Parade, Winter Lights Festival and New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore was asked about the regulatory changes during a briefing on Thursday and said that his office heard “loud and clear” from municipal partners about their desire to return to hosting some large-scale events. He said that he is confident that things like Santa Claus parades can be held safely so long as precautions are taken.

Given that they’re outdoors and our rates across Ontario are steadily decreasing we certainly hope that at the regional level they will make decisions to enable the parades to go forward,” he said.

By Chris Fox, CP24.com and CTVNewsToronto.ca Managing Digital Producer