Over the weekend, Police responded to a massive party at an Airbnb in western Quebec that violated public health regulations placing limits on party sizes. Still, there were too many attendees for officers to break it up.
According to CTV News, busloads travelled from Ottawa to a rental cottage in La Pêche along the Gatineau River. Residents called the Police to the area Saturday night, where they estimated around 500 people attended the cottage. Under current public health regulations in Quebec, parties are limited to 10 people indoors and 20 people outside.
Police said they could not hand out the $1,500 fines associated with breaking the regulation, citing "too many people." Sgt. Martin Fournel, a spokesperson for the MRC des Collines-de-l'Outaouais, said, "There was a safety concern for the officers. Half a dozen officers against, you know, 500 people — we don't want to put oil on the fire."
"Unfortunately, we had to identify positively, like all those individuals with a piece of ID, which was physically impossible to do that evening," he said. The party is the largest illegal gathering he has heard about since the onset of the pandemic.
Officers reportedly monitored the event until partygoers left the party in buses at around 2 am. The investigation remains active, and they could issue fines at a later date.
Fournel noted that many of the illegal gatherings officers had been called to in western Quebec occurred in short-term rentals. Platforms like Airbnb have a hard time verifying how the renters intend to use the property.
"They're lying about it. They're saying … 'Oh, we're going to be two couples, three couples max.' So it's difficult for the owner to validate that info and make sure that they're not going to show up with nine school buses and 500 people," he continued.
In a statement, Airbnb said it is "appalled at the blatant disregard for this host's home and neighbourhood" and that the party was held without the knowledge or consent of the owner. "We are currently working with this Host to support them through our Host Guarantee process. We have removed this guest from the platform," the company said.