Around the middle of September, the start of Quebec's second wave of COVID-19, Montreal trainers took to the streets and social media to protest the province's 28-day lockdown on fitness centres.

When the lockdown was extended, some gym owners threatened to reopen, others shut down and others continued to train clients one-on-one in private establishments.

Despite the outcry, and despite Mylène Drouin's recommendation that Montreal fitness centres re-open under certain conditions, gyms remain closed in Quebec red zones.

Many gym owners and personal trainers have accepted that they cannot receive clients but some have continued using their gyms to film online workouts their clients can do from home. 

What can gym owners do privately in their own gyms?

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Multiple police visits in a short period

Clarence Emile, co-owner of Centre U Fit, told MTL Blog that the SPVM made multiple visits to his gym, which he co-runs with his business partner, Luis Argumedes.

At the end of October, Emile said police informed his partner of a tip they'd received, accusing the owners of violating public-health rules.

Emile said he and his partner had been filming workouts for social media and training clients one-on-one in the gym.

According to Emile, the SPVM officers told them they could resume what they'd described. 

On the next visit, said Emile, police suggested the owners cover the gym's windows to block out spies.

Hours later, Emile said police returned with a different story: after checking with higher-ups, gyms had to be completely closed regardless of who was inside them in order to adhere to Quebec's rules.

The SPVM confirmed that police intervened at Centre U Fit but would not comment further.

Quebec's public health loopholes

Audrey Roy Cloutier, a spokesperson for the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions in Quebec, explained that the official decree says "usual activities where the public is invited" are suspended.

However, it's unclear whether gym owners can continue to use fitness centres for unusual activities without the presence of the public, such as filming online workouts.

We asked Quebec's Ministry of Health and Social Services about this but, as of November 13*, had not received a response.

Roy Cloutier told MTL Blog that if police are faced with a situation that "raises questions" — in other words, could be seen as breaking rules  — prosecutors are available to advise them 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

She also said each police report is analyzed by the province's criminal and penal prosecutors who make decisions case-by-case — including on the severity of the penalty or fine.

Fines for breaking Quebec's COVID-19 public health regulations range from $1,000 to $6,000.

Gym owners continue to film online workouts for social media

In a press conference on November 3, a reporter asked Health Minister Christian Dubé about gym owners filming themselves for online workouts.

"Gym owners obviously have... some of them have been very vocal about the closures, but some are trying to survive by offering online training sessions from their closed locations," said CTV's Kelly Greig.

"Yet, we're hearing that police consider that illegal, even if the owner is alone in their gym. So, why is that? What is the rule specifically on this?"

Dubé replied that he hadn't heard about it. 

"Let us check on that," he said. "We asked people to be innovative, and if there is one way to find a solution... Let's look at it."

Horacio Arruda, public health director, added, "What we don't want is groups to be together. If you're using your own [...]  gym and it's not your home, I think there is no reason for that being a problem in the public health perspective."

Both officials promised to look into it. Arruda said he would "make sure that it's not an interpretation of what is written in the ministerial order."

So far, no word. 

As Montreal's fitness professionals wait for further instruction, some have continued to host workouts on Instagram and Facebook Live for their clients.

Some have even continued training clients one-on-one at their private gyms.

Are they allowed to be doing this? Can they get in trouble for it? No one seems to have a straight answer.


*This article has been updated.


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