It has now been more than a month since Quebec first issued a province-wide curfew in hopes of combatting the spread of COVID-19. On January 9, 2021, the province’s Premier François Legault, took to Facebook to announce an overnight curfew. The curfew is enforceable from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., and it would not be lifted until at least February 8, 2021. In the Facebook post, Legault wrote, “the main reason for the curfew is to prevent gatherings, even the smallest ones.” The curfew gives police the power to pull people over on the road between the hours of 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. to ask about their whereabouts. Drivers who are found traveling for non-essential reasons can receive fines ranging from $1,000 to a maximum fine of $6,000. It has now been a month and two weeks since the curfew was first imposed, and residents of Quebec are unsure if the curfew is even working.
Quebec police are issuing tickets at the same rate since the start of the province-wide curfew
Data from Quebec’s public security department shows that more than 1,000 tickets are issued per week. Overall, the number of tickets issued has remained the same since the beginning of curfew on January 9, 2021. But data shows a drastic decrease in the province’s COVID-19 numbers since the curfew started.
Montreal police accused of ‘abusing power’ during curfew driving check
Sarah Vresk works for a snow removal company near Montreal, Quebec. CBC reports that before her shift on Tuesday, January 12, 2021, Vresk asked her employer for a letter to prove that she is an essential worker. The Quebec government website asks employers to complete the Employer Attestation Concerning Travel During the Curfew Decreed by the Government du Quebec to ensure that employees are provided with proper documents when they are out past curfew. Unlike their neighbouring province, when Ontario implemented its stay-at-home-order, the province did not require residents to show any proof that they were out for essential purposes. But, as a Quebec resident, Vresk made sure she had her proof of employment form with her. On her way to work at around 4 a.m., Vresk was pulled over by Montreal police and was asked where she was going. When Vresk handed the officer her employment letter, the officer told her that for all he knew, it could just be a piece of paper and that he required further proof. He then asked Vresk what was in her lunch bag and told her she could face fines if she did not show him.
In an interview with CityNews Montreal, Lawyer and founder of Ticket911, Avi Levy, says that police need to be more flexible and understanding. Back when the curfew was first introduced Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante ensured the people of Montreal that police would understand the importance of enforcing the curfew, though when deciding whether or not to issue a ticket, they would be mindful that every individual has their own story and situation. In an interview we conducted with Avi Levy, he echoed Mayor Plante’s assurance.
New regulations create confusion with enforcement
Levy points out that in both provinces, the regulations are so new that everyone’s interpretation of the rules are different as there are so many different variables. He says new regulations that are open to everyone’s interpretations have caused much confusion in both provinces. Levy provided an example of another lawyer fearing a ticket for being at the courthouse past curfew. The unclear language has left residents of Ontario and Quebec apprehensive about what they can and cannot do.