MONTREAL -- In response to Premier Francois Legault's plan to fine gyms and their clients for defying public health orders, owners are suggesting for people to engage in peaceful protest outside of their individual gyms on Thursday. 

Earlier this week, some 200 gym owners said they would be opening their doors despite public health guidelines forcing them to remain closed, citing a lack of proof that their facilities have significantly contributed to the transmission of COVID-19. 

"Even if science recognizes that physical activity is essential to overall health, Premier Legault prefers to ignore this public health data," a news release signed by 260 of the province's physical health centres reads. 

Legault maintained on Tuesday that businesses who defy guidelines -- and their clients -- will be fined. The province saw 963 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and recorded 19 more deaths -- numbers that are too high to consider loosening red-zone measures just yet, Legault said. 

Measures expected to end on Wednesday were extended to the end of November -- meaning gyms, restaurants, theatres, museums, and other non-essential businesses will have to remain closed for another four weeks. But small business owners are asking for proof that their spaces have contributed to outbreaks of COVID-19. 

"Faced with this authoritarian drift, we decided to invite our customers instead to a 'health' protest in front of our facilities this Thursday from 8:30 am," the release continues. "This protest, peaceful and in accordance with the health rules in force, will be the first step in a movement that we want to see grow so that the Legault government realizes that it cannot govern only for the Covid, but also for the physical and mental health of 8.5 million people." 

The group specified that more action could be taken following the protests if the government remains "closed to our demands." 

"The vast majority of Quebecers understand that right now we can't open restaurants, that we can't open gyms, that there's a big risk of contagion," Legault told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.