Owner of CrossFit 819 in Quebec still pursuing legal action to prevent future lockdowns despite gyms reopening
Photo credit: Instagram @crossfit819
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Quebec announced that gyms will be allowed to reopen at half capacity on February 14, bringing the total number of closures the fitness industry in Quebec has experienced to four, totaling nearly 400 days.
No reason to celebrate: While this may sound like good news, Shane Miller, the owner of CrossFit 819 in Gatineau, Quebec, a gym that has been mandated closed due to COVID-19 for 14 of the past 22 months, is skeptical this will be the last time he will be told to close his doors.
As a result, he continues to push forward with a charter challenge — a legal challenge against the government because he feels his rights and freedoms have been violated — in an attempt to show that gyms are an essential service and that it is unconstitutional to close them. down.
“We are not the problem,” he said. “We are part of the solution.”
- “If you just look at the record…it was two weeks (of closures) then it was another two weeks, then it was a month, then another month…they just do this over and over and over again so I have absolutely no faith in the government (that it will be last time),” Miller said.
- He added: “And that won’t change my Charter Challenge, because the bottom line is that as long as they can keep doing that, we’re likely to get deeper and deeper into debt…and if I go bankrupt, then I can’t help any people who rely on us. I also really want to make sure that in the future we can’t be closed, so that we can’t keep people healthy. A lot of people need that.”
The Canadian scene: As in the United States, the extent of restrictions and the duration of gym closures largely depends on where you live. Gyms in the province of British Columbia on the country’s west coast, for example, have been wide open since the first wave of the pandemic, albeit currently with capacity restrictions, while gyms in more eastern provinces Eastern Quebec and its neighboring province, Ontario, have faced some of the toughest restrictions and longest shutdowns in the world. That being said, not all gyms in these provinces experienced the same level of enforcement or devastation as Miller’s gym.
- Paul Tremblay, Canadian National Director of CrossFit, for example, said his CrossFit NCR gym in Ottawa, Ont., had been running at 50% capacity for a year, but that “doesn’t affect my business in any way,” he said, because the rules of capacity are determined based on the fire code in the province, which theoretically still allows him to have 200 people in the gymnasium.
- However, he has sympathy for Quebec gym owners. “Affiliate Owners have been through a lot, persevered and done everything they could to keep their communities moving and healthy,” he said.
Call me back: Last week, we reported on CrossFit 819’s decision to continue operating despite a gym closure mandate that began in December 2021, a decision that ultimately landed Miller in court last month. The result was that the judge ordered Miller that he would violate a court order if he continued to operate, a violation that could land him 30 days in jail.
- “I would be very happy to go to jail for 30 days for this fight, but I have a wife and three children and it would be more than they could handle,” he said.
What happened next : Miller obeyed the court order and shut down two weeks ago, resuming its Zoom-class service to its dwindling customer base, and filed for a charter challenge in hopes of proving that closing gyms is unconstitutional, and that “these lockdowns basically undermine my right to earn a living and the right of people to associate here,” he said.
- Miller is awaiting the Attorney General’s response for a trial date, and is in the process of gathering evidence and testimony to build her case, which could take several months and a lot of money – her attorney has told her to budget at least $25,000.
- Whereas Miller lost over 50% of the 300 members he had at the start of the pandemic due to the continued lockdowns and got into debt in the process, he hopes to raise money through GoFundMe to help pay for legal costs.
- Its ultimate goal is to prevent future lockdowns “so they can’t do this to us again,” Miller said. “And then there will be a precedent for other gyms. I just want to try and do something to help.
The big picture: Even if gyms are due to reopen on Feb. 14, Miller said he has lost all faith that will actually happen, let alone that it will be the last lockdown in Quebec – lockdowns he has seen take their toll on physical health. and mental health of people in his community.
- “I had a client who came back when we first reopened and he had put on 70 or 80 pounds. Another member was a former drug addict and was using CrossFit as a way to get rid of that (addiction) and he didn’t come back… Another couple of girls said they were too ashamed (of their looks) to come back” , Miller said.
- “All this stuff weighs on me. I don’t know of anyone who has died from COVID, but I have seen the health seriously impacted among my members. People are dealing with mental health issues, and I cannot, in good conscience, do nothing about it. »