Exceptional circumstances require exceptional measures: For the first time in at least a decade, most grocery stores located in areas affected by freezing rain will be open this Sunday for Easter.

Citizens plunged into darkness for days will thus be able to restock their refrigerators after having had to throw away their expired food.

This is the case of Dina Karampatsou, a mother who came to buy “the minimum” at the Maxi on rue Jean-Talon, in Parc-Extension, a neighborhood where many residences were still plunged into darkness on Saturday.

“My husband will be able to go to Costco tomorrow, to buy the meat, which we still miss,” she rejoices, next to her half-dozen large bags of groceries full to the brim that will go to fill her refrigerator, which she had to throw away almost all of the contents.

This measure announced on Saturday by the Government of Quebec applies to six regions particularly affected by power outages in recent days, namely: Montreal, Outaouais, Laval, Lanaudière, Laurentides and Montérégie.

Only large-scale food establishments (those with more than 375 m⁠2 of sales area), which must normally close their doors on this Easter Sunday, are targeted. Smaller grocery stores and pharmacies may choose to remain open.

“We come to offer the victims who will have found electricity late Saturday or this Sunday the possibility of buying food, and this, after a few days without electricity. In this way, we ensure the food security of those hard hit, ”said the Minister responsible for the Economy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, in a press release.

This decision was made in collaboration between the grocers and the government, specifies the vice-president of public affairs of the Association of food retailers of Quebec, Stéphane Lacasse.

However, it is important to check which grocery stores will be open since some may still be without electricity. This is the case of the IGA market on rue Jarry, as La Presse has seen.

Other grocery stores that have been forced to get rid of their perishable foods may also remain closed. The PA Supermarket, which lost power for several days, had bare shelves and empty freezers on Saturday.

“Aware of the inconvenience caused by last Thursday’s ice storm and numerous power outages, METRO inc. once again responds to the government’s call to ensure food security for the population in exceptional circumstances,” said the company, which thanked “the employees who agreed to come and work on a voluntary basis on the occasion of a public holiday”.

Indeed, for many, it is not so easy to adjust like this at the last minute, says the president of the Retail Council of Canada, Michel Rochette. “It’s not easy because employees have sometimes been affected themselves, but everyone is going to do what they can,” he said.

The latter says he does not remember the last time grocery stores were open in Quebec for Easter Sunday. “During COVID, we were pretty much forced to close on Sundays,” he recalls.

In addition to the labor challenge, many grocery stores will also face the supply challenge. “Every day the shelves are full, people come to buy. It’s an extremely complex ecosystem,” summarizes Michel Rochette.

At the Maxi on rue Jean-Talon, however, we don’t worry too much about the availability of employees. “It wasn’t too complicated. It was on a voluntary basis and as they are going to be paid overtime, they appreciate it,” says manager Alexandre Brissette.

In addition to prepared meals, the place has been very popular in recent days for its microwaves and power outlets, he adds, while behind him, a dozen customers recharge their cellphones while chatting.