Lawyers fight to lift Quebec's curfew measures for homeless people
MONTREAL -- A group of legal aid lawyers were in court Monday requesting an immediate injunction to lift the curfew for Quebec's homeless population.
A provincial decree, enacted Jan. 9 in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, states that “between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. Quebecers must not leave their homes except in cases that justify travel.”
The question at the heart of the hearing in Quebec Superior Court was whether the decree can be applied to people who don’t have a home in the first place.
When the curfew was put in place, the Legault government insisted police would use tolerance and common sense when enforcing the decree, especially when it came to homeless people.
But Monday, lawyers from the Mobile Legal Clinic brought forward the case of a 38-year-old homeless man, who suffers from alcohol addiction and schizophrenia.
Lawyers said the man was given two $1,500 tickers last week, and in one case, he had to go to Sainte-Thérèse because no shelter in the city would take him because of his addiction.
When he arrived in Sainte-Thérèse, lawyers said police arrested him, and put him in jail.
CURFEW MEASURES ARE 'A MISTAKE': OPPOSITION
Lawyers say the situation involving the homeless is an emergency, which is why they are seeking an immediate injunction from a judge.
Meanwhile, government lawyers argued creating an exception for homeless people would be too complicated for police to apply.
If granted, the constitutionality of imposing such a decree on the homeless population will be debated further in court.
The legal challenge comes a week after the death of a Montreal homeless man sparked outrage accross the country.
Raphael Andre, 51, was found frozen on Sunday morning inside a chemical toilet near a shelter on Parc Ave. where he'd been keeping warm during the day. The Quebec coroner's office is investigating his death.
Montreal mayor Valérie Plante has joined calls to exempt the homeless population from the nightly curfew.
But Quebec Premier François Legault said no, responding that if the homeless get an exception, other Quebecers might pretend they're homeless when stopped by police after 8 p.m.
On Monday, while the court hearing was getting underway, various community organizations and opposition politicians held a press conference at the National Assembly in Quebec to add their voices to the debate.
“These people have no homes. How can they go back to their homes after 8 p.m.?” said Paule-Robitaille, the Liberal Party’s critic for the fight against poverty and social solidarity.
“I do not understand why the premier is so reluctant to acknowledge the evidence. He made a mistake, he could be humble enough to reconsider his decision,” she added.
“There are already many exceptions to the decree. If there is one for me to walk my dog, why not one for the homeless to whom this decree is totally ill-adapted?”
Quebec Superior Court Justice Chantal Masse listened to the arguments, but pointed out the curfew does not specify what constitutes a home, and that exceptions already exist for dog owners. She is expected to give a decision on the injunction later this week.