COVID-19: Some Ontario gym owners exploiting exception to stay open

WATCH ABOVE: A Mississauga gym that was the subject of a Global News report remains open three weeks after City of Mississauga staff tried to have it closed down. As Seán O’Shea reports, other Ontario gyms are staying open during the stay-at-home order by claiming they are seeing clients with disabilities only.

Ontario gyms are closed because of the province’s stay-at-home order amid the COVID-19 pandemic, right? Wrong, at least in some cases.

Some gyms, likeHUF Boxing Gym in Mississauga, openly defied the government’s orders in April and reopened to clients, a story reported by Global News at the time.

The mayor of Mississauga, Bonnie Crombie, warned HUF Gym would face consequences for its actions.

“We don’t have a lot of tolerance for this, we’re going to give them the maximum fine,” Crombie said on April 16.

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However, the gym remains open.

In neighbouring Oakville, another gym, Muscle HQ, is one of many fitness facilities that have quietly reopened after receiving legal advice that they could do so under the Reopening Ontario Act.

The act allows for health care providers to be open to provide services to those who require services like physiotherapy and who can obtain a letter from a regulated medical professional to support it.

“We’re only open to a specific population,” said co-owner Ali Siddiqui when Global News paid a visit to the gym.

He said patrons are welcome to work out “as long as have a note that says they require physical exercise in a gym.”

“There’s a law saying that I’m encouraged to be open, I’m going to be open,” Siddiqui added.

But Siddiqui acknowledged bylaw officials never asked to see notes from customers when they paid several visits to the gym.

“No, the town of Oakville has not requested a review of doctors’ notes. Under provincial guidelines, records can only be disclosed to a medical officer of health or an inspector under the Health Protection and Promotion Act,” said Jim Barry, Oakville’s director of municipal enforcement services, in an email.

The sign on the door to Muscle HQ reads that it can currently accommodate 52 patrons, representing 50 per cent of the gym’s capacity. However, the Town of Oakville said that’s not accurate.

“Under the provincial regulations, facilities for indoor or outdoor sports and recreational fitness … can have no more than 10 people permitted to occupy the space. Our enforcement officers have not seen a violation of these limits during their visits,” Barry wrote.

Global News observed the Muscle HQ for about two hours, during which time no fewer than 10 patrons entered through the front door. Most chose to leave via the rear entrance, situated in a self-service car wash bay, to return to their vehicles later.

The gym is in compliance with regulations, according to the town of Oakville.

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At HUF Boxing Gym in Mississauga, however, it’s a different story.

Even though the gym remains open, it faces six offences under the Reopening Ontario Act. These include three charges for obstruction, two charges for allowing a recreational amenity to remain open, and one charge for hosting an indoor social gathering.

“These matters are now before the court,” said Sam Rogers, the City of Mississauga’s director of enforcement, in an email.

HUF gym patrons continue to use the facilities.

Peel Regional Police Sgt. Paul Brown, seen on Global News video hugging and posing for photographs with gym supporters in April, was returned to active duty following a brief suspension.

The service’s internal affairs unit is continuing its investigation into Brown’s conduct.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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