Smaller turkeys, quieter gatherings: How coronavirus is changing Canada’s Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving won’t look the same this year — or at least it shouldn’t, if Canadians abide by coronavirus restrictions.

And one poultry farm in Quebec is already experiencing the effects.

“We reduced the size of the herd, so we bought less turkeys because we knew it would be less popular,” Samuel Bertrand, who works at Saveurs des Monts farm in Gatineau, Que., told Global News.

“We tried to adjust the size of the bird, so they’ll be a bit smaller for less people.”

Bertand said the farm typically prepares anywhere from 600 to 800 turkeys for the holiday, but this year cut that number to roughly 450.

He noted that many grocery stores that place orders with the farm have been waiting to know more about the state of the virus’ spread before confirming numbers.

While it has meant changes to their regular sales, Bertand said it’s simply “logic” that Canadian families opt for smaller gatherings this year.

The warnings to limit indoor gatherings have been plenty since the pandemic began. Rising COVID-19 cases and the approaching Oct. 12 holiday have added new wind to those messages.

Officials urge caution ahead of Thanksgiving

The country’s leaders and health officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have been urging Canadians to rethink Thanksgiving plans this year.

“In our four biggest provinces, the second wave isn’t just starting, it’s already underway,” Trudeau said in a televised address Wednesday. “We’re on the brink of a fall that could be much worse than the spring.

“It’s all too likely we won’t be gathering for Thanksgiving, but we still have a shot at Christmas.”

Toronto’s top public health official, Dr. Eileen de Villa, told residents to think of other ways of celebrating the several approaching holidays, noting such conversations can be tricky to have with family.

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford offered a reminder that indoor gatherings need to be limited to 10 people, and holidays are no exception.

“Nothing is more important than family and loved ones getting together. But in saying that, we’ve got to keep it under 10,” Ford said at a news conference Thursday.

 

Quebec’s health minister also noted cancelling Thanksgiving plans outside their own household is an “additional sacrifice” residents have to make.

Similar to Ontario, Quebec has a limit of 10 individuals per indoor gathering. The province “strongly” recommends that those gatherings include people from no more than three households.

Alberta has released a guide to safe holiday entertaining, which includes tips for hosts and guests.

In B.C., which is also dealing with an increase of COVID-19 cases, gatherings are limited to 50 individuals. 

The warnings to have smaller celebrations come as several areas in Canada are dealing with the second wave of coronavirus, seeing a spike in cases and increasing calls to limit social interaction. COVID-19 has killed about 9,250 people in Canada, while the cumulative case count has been edging toward the 150,000 mark.

Cases from indoor gatherings

Indoor gatherings, such as parties within homes, have been the culprit behind numerous COVID-19 cases in Canada.

In August, B.C.’s top doctor said at least 45 cases were linked to private parties in the Metro Vancouver area.

“Even though they may have been smaller individual parties, the overlapping groups meant that there’s a large number of people that were potentially exposed,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

Such parties have even led to a clampdown by law enforcement.

Also in August, three Vancouver police officers tested positive for COVID-19 after breaking up a party with more than 100 people attending. Between 16 to 20 officers are in self-isolation as a result.

Earlier this month, a Saskatoon party attended by 47 people was called a “superspreader event” after being linked to 21 coronavirus cases.

But Thanksgiving will still go on in Canada, even if it looks a bit different.

That’s what Ottawa Mission, a charity that offers shelter and support to the city’s homeless population, is promising.

“Thanksgiving will be definitely different, but it’ll be wonderful,” Ric Watson, the organization’s chef, said Thursday.

Watson said that residents of the shelter will be indoors, while external members of the community will be passed meals from their garage door. The meal will be a “full Thanksgiving dinner,” he said, loaded with a pumpkin tart, a drink and two other meals for the day.

For those who rely on the organization, the Thanksgiving meal isn’t just food but something they look forward to throughout the year, Watson said.

“It’s a sense of community,” he explained. “So we’re not going to let them down, it’s going to happen.”

— With files from Global National reporter Abigail Bimman

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