Jehovah’s Witnesses keep Cornwall in mind for 2021; city will feel economic pinch this year

In this 2015, file photo, hundreds of Jehovah's Witnesses pack the Ed Lumley Arena for their annual convention in Cornwall, Ont. The convention won't be happening this year due to coronavirus but the JW's are keeping Cornwall in mind for 2021. (City of Cornwall via Newswatch Group, File)

CORNWALL – With restrictions on large gatherings during the coronavirus outbreak, it will mean a big hit to the Cornwall tourism industry for a large event usually held this month.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses Watchtower convention is usually held at the Cornwall Civic Complex over one or more weekends in June.

The religious convention usually brings in millions of dollars. It’s estimated that two weekend events bring approximately $4.5 million to the local economy, as delegates fill up nearby restaurants and stay at local hotels.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, Cornwall Tourism Officer Kevin Lajoie says there’s no doubt the economy will be hurt.

“You don’t need a crystal ball, right? It’s unfortunate, it’s going to have an impact for sure. It’s unfortunate but it’s also understandable given everything going on and we have to follow the public health guidelines. The safety of visitors to Cornwall, whether they’re delegates to a convention or just coming here for some leisure time, we need to keep that in mind as well. Their safety is important to us.”

Lajoie says it’s going to have an impact on restaurants and businesses already hurting from coronavirus restrictions.

“Generally speaking, they definitely do have an impact as far as overnight stays and it’s one of those events that our hotels have come to rely on year after year because they know it’s coming they can plan for it. There’s no doubt there, there’s going to be a reduction in room nights as a result, unfortunately,” Lajoie said.

He says they are “anxious” to have the Jehovah’s Witnesses back in 2021 “and beyond in future years as well and continue that relationship that we’ve enjoyed for so long.”

Speaking with Cornwall Newswatch, Jehovah’s Witnesses spokesman Christian Rousseau says “we feel sorry we can’t have our convention this year. We always look forward, all Jehovah’s Witnesses that are used to go to Cornwall, love going to the city and look forward to it all year. We love being in the city and we’re always welcomed.”

He says the safety of the attendees and the community comes first.

Rousseau says the convention goes online with lessons throughout the summer at with the theme “Always Rejoice.”

“That’s great timing because we’re all feeling the stress of the current conditions both here and worldwide and there are other things that worry people in the news. But we’ll be refreshed by a program like that.”

He says negotiations are ongoing with the City of Cornwall for next year’s convention. “The schedule hasn’t been finalized. As before, we are looking at Cornwall as one of the possible locations. It’s definitely as possibility.”

Last year (2019) was the 22nd year for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Cornwall.