Skip to main content

From something as simple as getting a haircut to something as exciting as getting together to cheer on the Habs’ playoff run, Canadians are returning to the activities and places they have missed for months as restrictions ease across the country

Conrad Marshall, of Conrad's Barber Shop and Hairstyling Inc., cuts Tharun Siravoori's hair on June 30, 2021. Barber shops like Conrad's were allowed to welcome back customers following Ontario's second stage reopening.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

With cases of COVID-19 plummeting and vaccinations on the rise, restrictions have eased to varying degrees in all provinces and territories in recent weeks. Canadians are embracing the opportunity to return to the activities and places they have missed for months.

St. John’s singer-songwriter Peter Willie Youngtree and his band, Youngtree and The Blooms, played their first live show in over a year at the Black Sheep, a popular live music venue in St. John’s.CHRISTOPHER DEACON/Handout

Newfoundland and Labrador

(Fully vaccinated: 15% At least one dose: 73%)

Peter Willie Youngtree, a singer-songwriter in St. John’s, hit his low point of the pandemic in February when Newfoundland and Labrador went into another lockdown. “That was a lot more gruelling than the entire previous year,” the 34-year-old says. “I had a hard time even picking up my guitar.”

His band, Youngtree and the Blooms, hadn’t played live together since January, 2020, when MusicNL, an industry organization, named them alternative artist of the year. But when restrictions were lifted at the end of March allowing bars and pubs to open their doors again, calls from venues and bandmates began trickling in.

Mr. Youngtree and his band played their first show of this new year last Friday at the Black Sheep, a popular live-music venue in St. John’s. “It was incredible,” Mr. Youngtree says. “Being up on stage with a live audience, that in-the-moment thing, it hits you right in the gut.”

The country-rock band played two sets of new material and old favourites. The crowd of about 50 people, hooting and throwing their arms in the air, wasn’t allowed to dance because of public-health restrictions. Somehow that made the show even more intimate. At one point, Mr. Youngtree stepped down from the stage to an open space in front of the audience, as if drawn to the crowd. “I was looking into people’s faces as I sang. It felt like something was really washing over me in that moment.”

- Dave McGinn

Worshippers pray at the Ummah Masjid and Community Centre in Halifax, as in-person prayer is resumed with COVID-19 restrictions eased in Nova Scotia.Darren Calabrese/The Globe and Mail

Nova Scotia

(Fully vaccinated: 20% At least one dose: 72%)

When Ahmad Abdoulla sees there’s about half an hour left before the next daily Islamic prayer, he takes his taxi out of service to drive from wherever he is in the Halifax Regional Municipality to Ummah Masjid and Community Centre, his second home. He goes there three or four times a day to pray, because “in the Quran, it is more rewarding to pray with the group than individually” he says.

In late April, when his province – which for months had been living under lighter COVID-19 restrictions than much of the rest of Canada – locked down, he missed the ritual intensely. Ummah’s congregation had to spend the second half of Ramadan at home and celebrate Eid with a drive-by service the mosque organized.

When restrictions lifted the first week of June, the mosque had to hold Jummah (the sacred Friday prayer) in shifts to ensure all could attend safely.Darren Calabrese/The Globe and Mail

When restrictions lifted the first week of June, the parking lot was packed and the mosque had to hold Jumma – the sacred Friday prayer – in shifts to ensure all could attend safely.

But it was the quieter daily prayers Mr. Abdoulla was most eager to return to. On a recent Tuesday, he and 15 other men and boys attended the evening prayer, carefully spaced out with the help of strips of painter’s tape on the floor.

As the chant of “Allahu Akbar” reverberated through the domed ceiling of the mosque, Mr. Abdoulla knelt and folded his body forward, the collar of his cerulean golf shirt brushing against the lush carpet, feeling a familiar peace.

- Dakshana Bascaramurty


(Fully vaccinated: 18% At least one dose: 72%)

As soon as P.E.I lifted its border restrictions Paulette Holmes and her husband, Scott, drove across the continent from Texas to reach the old farmhouse that Holmes purchased from her grandparents.Courtesy of Paulette Holmes

Last summer, the pandemic interrupted Paulette Holmes’s regular pilgrimage back to the Island, and the old farmhouse that she purchased from her grandparents in Waterford. But she harbours an extra reason for driving with her husband, Scott, halfway across the continent from Texas as soon as Prince Edward Island lifted its travel restrictions just enough to let her in: She is slowly losing her eyesight.

This year, now legally blind, the 55-year-old had to retire from the nursing career that first landed her in the United States as a younger Islander. She didn’t need the pandemic to remind her to savour life’s best moments: the unexpected doorstop delivery by her sisters of her favourite orange-pineapple ice cream during self-isolation; a family reunion at a nephew’s graduation; lobster boils; walks on the beach by their home.

“There is just something about being next to the ocean and the fresh air,” she says, that brings instant ease.

In a normal summer, PEI’s permanent population of 157,000 inflates exponentially for this very reason. Last July, however, fewer than 91,000 visitors made it to the island because of restrictions – a tourist trickle compared with the 338,500 who came in July, 2019. Now, as Canada’s East Coast slowly reopens to the rest of the country, Ms. Holmes will play tourist with everyone else hoping to escape to the Island this summer. She wants to see every piece of her home province while she can.

- Erin Anderssen

New Brunswick

(Fully vaccinated: 28% At least one dose: 69%)

The chapel at Brenan’s Funeral Home and Crematorium in Saint John is beginning to fill up again, as restrictions around interprovincial travel and gatherings are relaxing.

Karen Belyea arranges flowers for a funeral at Brenan's Funeral Home in Saint John, NB. The latest provincial gathering restrictions mean the chapel can be filled at 50 per cent capacity, or up to 72 people.Chris Donovan/The Globe and Mail

For much of the pandemic, funerals were limited to just five people, and other mourners had to watch from home through online livestreams. Many families with members spread across the country opted for cremations and chose to wait until they could mourn together with larger receptions and visitations.

“We have a lot of families who were on hold,” explains Karen Belyea, the funeral home’s managing director. “It was an awful time for a lot of people, so this is a huge relief. People are starting to get that support again from loved ones and their community.”

At Brenan’s, the latest provincial gathering restrictions mean the chapel can be filled at 50-per-cent capacity, or up to 72 people. There’s no limit on the number of people who can attend an outdoor burial, provided they can maintain physical distancing. And planning for funerals can once again be done in person, Ms. Belyea says.

“It’s starting to feel almost normal again,” she says.

- Greg Mercer

Montreal Canadiens fans celebrate after the Habs won Game 6 in the NHL Semi-Finals against the Las Vegas Golden Knights outside the Bell Center in Montreal. Two weeks ago, the province allowed restaurants and bars to stay open until 2 a.m. for as long as the Habs’ Stanley Cup dream stays alive.ANDREJ IVANOV/AFP/Getty Images


(Fully vaccinated: 25% At least one dose: 70%)

La Cage, a prominent sports bar with 36 locations across Quebec, has a policy: 2 a.m. closing time only applies if the Montreal Canadiens’ game is over.

Two weeks ago, the province announced restaurants and bars could stay open until 2 a.m. for as long as the Habs’ Stanley Cup dream stays alive. Quebec residents, who had been under mandated curfew until late May, are now populating La Cage’s terrace at a rate that makes calling for reservations seem like a fool’s errand.

Red-and-white jerseys punctuated the patio at the sports bar’s location on St. Catherine Street in downtown Montreal on Tuesday. Two friends shared a pitcher of beer, as Game 1 highlights played on four big-screen TVs.

Manny Singh, 24, says he hopes to catch a game in the series at La Cage because they offer eight free wings on nights when the Canadiens score five goals.

“Not sure if that will happen though,” he says. “They’ll have a hard time scoring five against that goalie,” he adds, but without letting an admiration for the opponent’s net-minding diminish his loyalty to the Habs.

- Alex Cyr


(Fully vaccinated: 31% At least one dose: 67%)

Conrad Marshall was all set for action when his barber shop opened after months closed by lockdown. Six barbers stood behind their chairs, clippers racked and ready, brushes lined up, combs steeping in blue Barbicide. The radio was tuned to G98.7 FM (“The way we groove”). Outside the plate-glass window, a group of very shaggy men stood waiting their turn.

Mr. Marshall’s father, also a Conrad, opened the business in 1975 after arriving in Canada from Trinidad via New Jersey. Conrad’s was the first Black barber shop in Scarborough, the immigrant landing pad on Toronto’s eastern shoulder.

One of the first men through the door on Wednesday was James Thomas, 26, a school custodian who has been coming to Conrad’s for 14 years. He hadn’t had his hair trimmed since last fall. When he stretched a lock of it, it extended south of his nose. He took the chair manned by Elisha “Blade” Henry, 39. Mr. Henry gave him the bald fade: shaved close on the back and sides, with a little more left on top. “It feels so good,” Mr. Thomas declared, an impressive mound of hair at his feet. Finally, a haircut.

- Marcus Gee

Conrad Marshall was all set for action when his barber shop opened after months closed by lockdown.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail


(Fully vaccinated: 34% At least one dose: 64%)

Neil Aseron and Victory Coffey, both 27, waited months to return to their favourite date spot in person and were first through the door when it opened Tuesday.

“It’s exciting to just be here,” Mr. Aseron said while waiting for a bison burger at Feast Cafe Bistro in Winnipeg’s west end. “This is our first time back. We’d been ordering online, but sitting here feels very different.”

Neil Aseron and Victory Coffey, both 27, return to Feast Cafe Bistro in Winnipeg's West End after indoor dining was allowed to resume in Manitoba.Shannon VanRaes/The Globe and Mail

Manitoba restaurants officially reopened for indoor dining at 25-per-cent capacity on Saturday, but patrons from different households may only sit together if all parties are 14 days past their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Having worked from home for more than a year, Ms. Coffey said she’s “more nervous” about the reopening than her partner, who works in retail. She wanted to make Feast the first restaurant they returned to as pandemic restrictions lifted.

The couple, high-school sweethearts, began frequenting the bistro while attending the University of Winnipeg a few blocks away. Both had different class and work schedules; they always found time to get together by meeting at Feast for a meal and a catch-up. Today, they live together but continue to make the corner café part of their routine.

“This has always been such a great place for us. I missed coming here,” she said. “It’s also the best place to get bannock and anything with bannock is good.”

- Shannon VanRaes

Stephen McLeod, left, and Muthana Alheetimi practice striking at Scheer's Martial Arts in Saskatoon.Kayle Neis/The Globe and Mail


(Fully vaccinated: 35% At least one dose: 61%)

A few weeks ago, Troy Scheer started holding his martial arts classes outside.

“As soon as we started going outside for the classes, you could just see the energy level pick up again,” Mr. Scheer says. “You could see everyone smiling again.”

Instructor Troy Scheer teaches a striking class at Scheer's Martial Arts has recently been allowed to open classes back up as COVID-19 restrictions loosen in the province.Kayle Neis/The Globe and Mail

For much of the pandemic, classes at Scheer’s Martial Arts in Saskatoon were restricted to only a few students at a time, all wearing masks and spread several metres apart indoors. Students were only allowed to practise with a heavy bag, which Mr. Scheer says was challenging since martial arts is a contact sport.

But now that classes are outside, students are allowed to go maskless and engage in physical contact again. Physical contact is now allowed for indoor classes as well, but students are still required to wear masks, so most of them opt for outdoor sessions.

Muthana Alheetimi, 30, started attending classes here last June. He says the sport “was kind of a release” for him during the pandemic, and that he was “excited” about the loosened restrictions because it made training more effective.

“It’s more real – that is what the sport is like in real life,” Mr. Alheetimi says. “Now that I can do more, I can fully appreciate [it].”

- Chantelle Lee

Scott Cook plays his first live solo show in over a year on a warm Edmonton night.Wes Cline/HANDOUT


(Fully vaccinated: 35% At least one dose: 62%)

On a warm Edmonton summer night, Scott Cook took the stage – or more accurately, a patch of lawn – for his first solo show in 15 months.

Those months had, surprisingly, brought many blessings. Mr. Cook had been on the road a long time before that, away 10 months of the year, performing all over the world. He had been in Texas when the pandemic hit, a show on Tuesday and by Thursday he was racing toward home.

It was nice to stay in one place for a while, a break he’d known he needed but wouldn’t have given himself. He cooked, wrote, walked the dog, learned new things. He formed a band with his housemates and they performed online, which had its benefits, too, but he missed that feeling of connection, the loop of energy with the crowd. Now here he was, standing alone before a small group of people, still outdoors and distanced, but the beginning of something.

There were more shows planned, other cities, other countries. And although Mr. Cook still worried about the future – and felt a bit sick from his second vaccination – it felt wonderful to be there, playing for an audience again.

- Jana G. Pruden

British Columbia

(Fully vaccinated: 27% At least one dose: 69%)

For the past several summers, Geoff Wherrett’s family has made the trip to picturesque Galiano Island from Vancouver to spend a few balmy days with a number of other families camping, kayaking and barbecuing.

They had made backup plans to stay on the mainland this summer in case COVID-19 restrictions remained in place, but British Columbia moving into Step 2 of its restart plan on June 15 meant people could resume travelling around the province, and BC Ferries could once again take passengers for recreational purposes.

Travellers watch a passing ferry from the deck of the Queen of Oak Bay ferry to Vancouver Island, as travel restrictions in the province lift.Cole Burston/The Globe and Mail

It’s a long-awaited trip for Mr. Wherrett and his wife, who have both spent the bulk of the past year “sitting on phones and Zoom all day,” along with their seven-year-old daughter.

“We’re super excited to get out and about and do a trip, to do something that’s not where you live all the time, where your personal life and your work life is all smushed into one,” said Mr. Wherrett, who was island-bound with a double-kayak, snorkelling gear and barbequing equipment on Wednesday.

BC Ferries has since moved into a summer schedule, increasing sailings on all major routes. Spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said while traffic has surged since restrictions lifted, it’s not yet back to prepandemic levels. Passenger traffic on June 23, for example, was down 35 per cent and vehicle traffic down 16 per cent compared to the same day in 2019, she said.

- Andrea Woo

Travellers and commuters ride the Queen of Oak Bay ferry to Vancouver Island.Cole Burston/The Globe and Mail


(Fully vaccinated: 64% At least one dose: 74%)

After heavy lockdown restrictions in Yukon forced Maegan and Dustin Elliott to postpone their nuptials last summer, the two wed on June 26 in their horse pasture outside Whitehorse, with 80 guests watching.

“We did a whole bunch of mowing to make it look presentable,” Maegan said. “It was 25 degrees and windy, which kept the mosquitos back.”

For months, the two – who knew each other as kids and met again at a first-aid course five years ago – deliberated how to redo their big day. They contemplated a micro-wedding with just their parents, but ultimately decided to wait and throw a proper party.

With the Miners mountain range behind them, Maegan, a 27-year-old conservationist, and Dustin, a 30-year-old hunting guide and taxidermist, exchanged their vows.

“When it was finally here, it was a big sigh of relief,” Maegan said. “The day turned out perfectly.”

After having to postpone their nuptials last summer, Maegan and Dustin Elliott finally wed on June 26 in their horse pasture outside Whitehorse.Crystal Schick/The Globe and Mail

Along with the bridesmaids dresses and flowers, there were signs of the times – Lysol wipes, hand sanitizing stations and instructions that guests eat and dance with their social bubbles.Crystal Schick/The Globe and Mail

The bridesmaids wore dusty blue gowns, the groomsmen dark denim, heavy belt buckles and Atwood cowboy hats; some chomped on cigars. Guests dined outdoors under big white party tents; there’d be a pig roast and chili. Later, dancing out in the pasture, on a plywood floor set on wooden palettes; the first dance was Chris Stapleton’s Millionaire.

There were signs of the times – Lysol wipes, hand-sanitizing stations and instructions that guests eat and dance with their social bubbles. Lingering COVID-19 restrictions downsized the couple’s guest list: only the fully vaccinated could enter Yukon without a two-week self-isolation period. Relatives in Alberta and Saskatchewan who couldn’t attend in-person peered in through a Facebook wedding group streaming the event live online.

After 16 months of social isolation, Maegan said it felt surreal to be among people. After their vows, the wife and her husband stole away for photographs before meeting their effusive receiving line.

“It was lovely but a little overwhelming, at first,” the bride said. “It was nice to have that 20 minutes to run away.”

- Zosia Bielski

Northwest Territories

(Fully vaccinated: 61% At least one dose: 70%)

While many of the country’s parks were overrun last summer by city dwellers looking for an escape from lockdown life, Wood Buffalo National Park, straddling the border between the Northwest Territories and Alberta, sat relatively dormant. Strict COVID-19 restrictions in the Northwest Territories kept visitors away from Fort Smith, gateway to the Switzerland-sized national park, but this summer promises to be different.

“Our normal level of visitation just wasn’t there last year,” says Kevin Gedling, a spokesman for the park. “This year, it’s looking much better.”

The park has just opened back up to guided tours, where visitors can join staff for an immersive look at Wood Buffalo’s most remarkable features. One guided hike goes through the eerie moonscape of Grosbeak Lake, a massive salt flat dotted with glacial erratics that was once the bottom of an ancient sea. Other tours explore the park’s whooping crane and bison habitats. A campfire program gathers visitors around a roaring flame for tales from an Indigenous storyteller. While some travel restrictions still remain in effect on the NWT side of the park, visitors can access some attractions from the wide-open Alberta approach.

- Patrick White


(Fully vaccinated: 40% At least one dose: 51%)

There’s a hill at the end of Iqaluit International Airport’s Runway 34 – the joint’s only runway, which morphs into Runway 16 if you’re headed the other direction – where plane-spotters hang out. It is on the west side of the 2.6-kilometre runway, making the light just right for photos.

Global air traffic nosedived during the pandemic, but now as quarantine restrictions ease for vaccinated travellers and international business picks up, plane-spotters like those in Nunavut’s capital are itching for busier skies. Iqaluit’s location and beefy runway means aircraft enthusiasts such as Brian Tattuinee have a shot at previewing new planes and spotting rare machines. International flights experiencing trouble occasionally divert to Iqaluit, aerospace companies such as Airbus do cold-weather testing there, and the Open Skies Treaty means a Russian surveillance flight may drop by.

“It is those unique visitors that I like to catch,” Mr. Tattuinee says. “A mile of runway gets you anywhere in the world.”

- Carrie Tait

Aircraft enthusiast Brian Tattuinee stands on the roof of his truck to take a photo of a Boeing 767-300 as it rolls down runway 34 at Iqaluit International Airport.Handout

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

Follow topics related to this article:

Check Following for new articles