MONTREAL -- Citing concerns for mental health, a large growd gathered in the streets of Quebec City on Sunday to demand the resumption of organized sports in the province.

Many participants wore their sports teams' jerseys over their coats. For many, those jerseys have been in the closet since Oct. 1, when Premier Francois Legault put organized sports on hiatus after they were temporarily resumed during the summer.

The crowd was primarily made up of young people who had been affected by the ban on engaging in their chosen sports.

Isaac Pepin, a secondary five student and football player from the Quebec City region, was the event's organizer.

“I'm really happy to see that there are so many people getting involved in the cause, asking for the revival of sports. It's really incredible,” he said.

The 16-year-old student at Seminaire St-Francois had written to Legault to remind him of the importance of sports to young people and asked for a meeting with Education Minister Isabelle Charest. 

Discussions are continuing between Minister of Education Isabelle Charest and sports federations with the aim of presenting a plan for the progressive deconfinement of sports next week.

Health authorities have also authorized the resumption of extracurricular activities throughout the province as of March 15.

“I expect the government to give us concrete answers so we can start sports again in the safest possible way,” said Pepin. 

On Twitter, Charest acknowledged the protest, saying she heard “these cries from the heart.”

Parti Quebecois critic for sports Meganne Perry Melancon was present for the march. She said that young people don't know when they can return to sports has had “a huge impact” on their health.

“They are more depressed and we see the rates of drug and alcoholc consumption have increased among young people,” she said. 

Participants were asked to bring sporting items they no longer use to the march, which will be donated to the Quebec Student Sport Network.  

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021.