'They feel scared,' Tensions rise between out-of-towners and locals in cottage country
PORT CARLING, ONT. -- Out-of-towners from the GTA and over the border are being targetted in cottage country by some residents who want them to head home.
"They feel scared because they have been threatened and accosted even," claims Muskoka Lakes Mayor Phil Harding.
For decades, Port Carling has been considered an international destination for seasonal and longtime cottagers in Muskoka.
Everywhere you look, you will see licence plates from all over, Florida, California, Massachusetts and New Jersey, to name a few.
The mayor says that during the pandemic, the mood has shifted, and tensions have escalated between some of the locals and the out-of-towners.
Harding says some vehicles have had windows smashed or keyed, even notes are left on windows asking folks to go back from where they came.
The mayor says this type of behaviour needs to stop.
"If you own a residence, you are entitled to be here," Harding says. "The provincial government, the federal government, has identified that. Unless you're strictly a U.S. citizen that just owns property - and those people are not up here."
The Muskoka Lakes Association is meeting with local leaders to discuss ways to deal with the issue.
In a statement, the association stated in part, "It is devastating to learn of the continued 'us versus them' occurrences in Muskoka."
The mayor is encouraging residents to be inclusive.
"Let's not judge a book by its cover. Just because somebody is driving a U.S. vehicle doesn't make them a bad person or carrier of the virus, and certainly doesn't preclude them potentially from being here for a variety of other reasons."
The Muskoka Lakes Association has organized a web seminar on Thursday aimed at calming tensions.
OPP Sgt. Jason Folz says, “The OPP want to reiterate to anyone who has been a victim of a threat or mischief, make sure you report it to your local detachment.”