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COVID-19: Drive-in movies are allowed again in Alberta

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WATCH: Alberta's chief medical officer of health announced on Monday that drive-in movies are no longer banned under the most recent COVID-19 restrictions. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, the move has helped the province avoid a potential showdown over authority on First Nation land. – May 17, 2021

The province reversed its decision to ban drive-in movies in Alberta on Monday.

On Sunday, an Alberta Health spokesperson said the current provincial rules prohibit drive-in entertainment because of the risk of people leaving their cars to mingle.

The rules went into effect on May 9 at 11:59 p.m., according to Alberta Health, but several drive-in operators say communication about the restrictions was lacking.

Read more: Confusion over Alberta drive-in event restrictions

On Monday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said that people will again be allowed to watch movies in their vehicles.

“Based on feedback and discussion of relative risks of different activities, we will be amending current restrictions to allow drive-in events to take place effective today,” Hinshaw said at a news conference.

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She said the drive-in rules state that anyone attending must go only with members of their household in the same vehicle or two close contacts for those who live alone.

Last week, several drive-ins in the Calgary area had to shut down and refund customers after finding out that drive-in movies were not allowed under the provincial COVID-19 health restrictions.

Read more: Calgary Indigenous clinic offering COVID-19 vaccines to youth, homeless, newcomers

Drive-in movies weren’t listed on the government website until Sunday.

“I am thrilled that they have done it,” said Dave Howard, president of the Event Group, on Monday in response to the government decision.

“I would caution though we still have rules to live by, and we are very cautious. We have COVID protocols. I am concerned there might be pop-ups that happen that don’t follow the rules, so I just encourage all drive-ins out there: let’s work together as a group so this continues so people in Alberta can enjoy live entertainment.”

Read more: Drive-in movies on Tsuut’ina Nation will resume despite restrictions while High River drive-in must close

The Event Group has set up the Grey Eagle Drive-in on Tsuut’ina Nation. On Sunday, Howard announced they got the go-ahead from the First Nation to run movies again because Tsuut’ina said as a sovereign First Nation, it has the authority to make that call.

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Mount Royal University criminologist Ritesh Narayan calls the drive-in reversal a prudent political decision that is good for the nation and for the UCP government if they want to continue building trust and empowering Indigenous communities.

He said it avoids a showdown in a legal area that is as clear as mud.

“In terms of case laws, I would say half would support what the Tsuut’ina Nation is doing, and in a very bizarre twist, you have the other half where we have case laws that state that the provincial government has jurisdiction over things like this,” Narayan said.

Read more: 3rd COVID-19 wave bringing ‘the most ICU patients that we’ve ever seen in our health-care system:’ Alberta Health Services

Narayan said the government needs to be prudent when it comes to enforcement over Indigenous communities.

“Yes, they are trying to look out for the entire society, and at the same time, while doing that they are inevitably stepping on a lot of rights,” Narayan said.

“Finding the balance is very important because if you don’t, more people will feel that their rights are being infringed and you will have more angry people and you will have more people not obeying guidelines.”

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