Quebec has issued $45M in fines during the pandemic, but only a fraction of them have been paid
Since the start of the pandemic, Quebec has issued millions of dollars in tickets for public health violations, but only a fraction of them have actually been paid so far, according to provincial data.
From April 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2021, authorities have handed out a total of 30,488 tickets to citizens and businesses for not following measures under the Public Health Act.
Out of the $45,732,899 in tickets, Quebec’s Ministry of Justice told CTV News that $5.7 million has been collected so far as the vast majority of people who have been fined either ignored them or are challenging them in court.
Dylan Jones, a Montreal-based lawyer who has represented about a dozen people who have received fines for breaching the curfew and not respecting physical distancing, said he believes the high cost of the individual fines and growing opposition to health measures among part of the population has motivated people to fight the fines.
“That group is going to be probably much, much more likely to receive these types of tickets than the average citizen and … because they're so motivated to fight [they’re] much, much more likely to contest to, not pay, to ignore, to leave it because they don't believe in it. They think it's wrong. They think it's in violation of their rights. And so they're going to take it down the line,” he said in an interview Wednesday.
People who are issued a ticket have 30 days to enter a plea, but, as the data shows, a significant portion of people who were ticketed appear to have ignored them — a decision the justice ministry said could lead to further punishments.
About 41 per cent of people who didn't enter a plea within the legal timeframe will "likely" be sentenced by a judge to pay by default in their absence, according to Isabelle Boily, a spokesperson for the justice ministry. In those cases, the court will decide whether or not the defendant is guilty based on the evidence presented by the prosecutor.
The ministry spokesperson said 38 per cent of people who received a ticket have pleaded not guilty and their cases are still before the court.
While Jones said he suspects the province might be successful in recouping more of the $45 million in fines so far, he said it’s important to be mindful that “the wheels of justice grind slowly and I think that definitely applies” to these tickets.
"Even though it's been two years, we're pretty early on the court cycle of these tickets, but they obviously won't get all of the amounts of those tickets," he added.
Approximately 15 per cent of people pleaded guilty or paid the full fine without entering a plea within the required response time.
About six per cent of the fines issued are still within the legal 30-day limit for a plea to be entered.
TERREBONNE TAKES #2 SPOT FOR MOST TICKETS
The ministry data broke down the numbers by judicial districts across Quebec. It was no surprise that the Montreal district saw the highest number of fines issued within the 21-month period. Just under 11,200 tickets were issued to people since the start of the pandemic.
Remarkably, the judicial district of Terrebonne, which encompasses 58 municipalities, saw the second highest number of tickets issued to citizens and businesses since the start of the pandemic. With a census population of 601,990 people, the records show 2,750 fines were handed out.
In comparison, in the judicial district of Quebec City, home to the province’s second most populated city, police handed out 2,480 tickets. That’s less than Terrebonne, even though the census population in the Quebec City region is larger with 892,678 people.
Terrebonnne also has nearly three times the number of tickets issued than the Longueuil district — 989 tickets — even though it is similar in population size with 614,426 people.
A police officer, right, notes the identity of two men after 8 p.m. as a curfew begins in the province of Quebec to counter the spread of COVID-19 on Saturday, January 9, 2021 in Quebec City. A handful of demonstrators walked downtown to protest the curfew. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
A police officer, right, notes the identity of two men after 8 p.m. as a curfew begins in the province of Quebec to counter the spread of COVID-19 on Saturday, January 9, 2021 in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Judicial districts in Laval and Gatineau were also among the regions that saw more than 1,000 fines in the first two years of the pandemic, with 1,455 tickets and 1,263 tickets issued, respectively.
British Columbia, by comparison, handed out far fewer tickets than Quebec. Authorities in that province issued 2,362 tickets totaling $1,630,700 in COVID fines between Aug. 21, 2020 and Jan. 14, 2022.
Quebec was the only jurisdiction in North America to impose a curfew during the pandemic, the first of which lasted nearly five months, from Jan. 9 to May 28, 2021. It was a measure that kept police officers in Quebec busy.
- Quebec police hand out more than 750 tickets during first weekend of the curfew
- 'We want our freedom': some young curfew dodgers in Quebec on their third or fourth ticket
In the month before the first curfew was introduced, Quebec Premier François Legault called on police to “crank up the number” of tickets to people caught violating the public health measures in place. At the time, he said he wanted to “send a clear message” to what he described as a small minority of Quebecers who were putting people at risk as daily cases of COVID-19 remained high.
LEGAL, FINANCIAL CONSEQUENCES
If citizens and businesses refuse to pay the fine within the required time period and are later found guilty, they could face financial penalties and even jail time
Cases of ignored tickets are handed over to the province’s Bureau des infractions et amende (BIA) to enforce the judgment if there’s a conviction.
“Following an assessment of the defendant's financial situation, the fine collector may agree to a payment agreement,” the Ministry of Justice spokesperson said.
If those attempts are unsuccessful, then the government can seize property or income to recover the money.
The collector may also issue a jail term “as a last resort,” although Jones said this sanction is extremely rare.
Montreal Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
There is a cost to war — to the countries that wage it, to the soldiers who fight it, to the civilians who endure it. For nations, territory is gained and lost, and sometimes regained and lost again. But some losses are permanent. Lives lost can never be regained. Nor can limbs. And so it is in Ukraine.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that the military alliance stands ready to seize a historic moment and move quickly on allowing Finland and Sweden to join its ranks, after the two countries submitted their membership requests.
NEW THIS MORNING | 'Please' before 'cheese': Answers to your royal etiquette questions
Etiquette expert Julie Blais Comeau answers your questions about how to address the royal couple, how to dress if you're meeting them, and whether or not you can ask for a selfie.
Saddle Lake Cree Nation in eastern Alberta is 'actively researching and investigating' the deaths of at least 200 residential school children who never came home, as remains are being found in unmarked grave sites.
The Green Party of Canada is calling on the federal government to develop a targeted anti-transgender hate strategy, citing a 'rising tide of hate' both in Canada and abroad. Amita Kuttner, who is Canada's first transgender federal party leader, made the call during a press conference on Parliament Hill on Tuesday.
The existence of unmarked graves had been a 'knowing' among residential school survivors and Indigenous elders, but the high-tech survey findings represented confirmation for Canada.
Ukrainian fighters extracted from the last bastion of resistance in Mariupol were taken to a former penal colony in enemy-controlled territory, and a top military official hoped they could be exchanged for Russian prisoners of war. But a Moscow lawmaker said they should be brought to 'justice.'
Police say the Buffalo supermarket shooter mounted a camera to his helmet to stream his assault live on Twitch. The move was apparently intended to echo the massacre in New Zealand by inspiring copycats and spreading his racist beliefs.
A new report says digital technology has become so widespread at such a rapid pace that Canadians have little idea what information is being collected about them or how it is used.
Political analysts call Doug Ford's approach the “front-runner” strategy and say it started long before the writ was drawn.
A day after Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner was robbed of his Range Rover at gunpoint outside an Etobicoke movie theatre, Toronto police said they have already seen more carjackings so far this year than they did in all of 2021.
An Ontario man who has nearly 1 million-kilometres on his car is sharing his secret of how he did it.
The police officer who fatally shot a 26-year-old Indigenous woman during a wellness check in Edmundston, N.B., two years ago says he doesn't know why things escalated so quickly.
When a man disguised as a Mountie started killing people in northern Nova Scotia two years ago, there was considerable confusion over who was in charge of the RCMP operation, newly released documents show.
A woman who was stabbed overnight in the Halifax area has died from her injuries.
A police investigation has been sparked after a north London, Ont. playground was vandalized with hate symbols.
The London Fire Department responded to a fast-moving blaze early Tuesday evening in the area of Dundas Street and Lyle Street, resulting in an estimated $50,000 worth of damages.
One person is in custody for allegedly breaking and entering after a Sarnia business owner saw they were being robbed in real-time thanks to a video surveillance system.
There have been more than 107 fatalities on Ontario Provincial Police patrolled roads so far this year.
B'Nai Brith Canada presented North Bay Mayor Al McDonald with a certificate of merit Tuesday morning, honouring him for standing up to racism.
As the provincial election nears, Sault Ste. Marie incumbent Ross Romano is squaring off again against Michelle McCleave-Kennedy, who gave him a tough fight in 2018.
Alberta schools boards can choose to pilot three more subjects in the new K-6 draft curriculum this fall, which is drawing criticism from some parents and student advocates.
The last time the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers faced each other in the playoffs was way back in 1991.
The ballots are in and tension is building within the United Conservative Party ahead of Wednesday's revelation of the result of Jason Kenney's leadership review.
The search continued Tuesday for a man police say may have information about the death of an 8-year-old boy in Cambridge. Neighbours also shared their concerns about the police response.
Provincial police have launched an investigation after human remains were found in the water in Dunnville, just northwest of Port Maitland.
A contentious topic is back under review in Cambridge. City council is hearing from a number of delegates sharing their thoughts about a paintball company's land and whether it should be re-zoned.
The soaring cost of gas is hitting charities in Metro Vancouver hard and organizations are worried they will soon have to make tough decisions and cuts to services if they don’t get some relief.
Nearly three weeks after Moderna became the first pharmaceutical company to apply for Health Canada approval of its COVID-19 vaccine for young children, the regulatory agency is tight-lipped about progress.
Volunteers with the CFB Chilliwack Historical Society are reeling after thieves broke into a military museum and stole irreplaceable items donated by war veterans and their families.
A hunter's wife has testified she texted her husband not to drink and drive or get in a fight the night he and his uncle were shot to death on a rural Alberta road.
Weapons incident and vandalism in Essex has some calling for return of police-led VIP program in schools
Numerous meetings have taken place since a youth allegedly fired an airsoft gun at a dance last Friday.
A Windsor man is facing charges following an investigation into an alleged investment scheme that defrauded more than $800,000 from multiple victims.
A person was taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries after their motorbike collided with a parked car Tuesday afternoon.
A number of social media users captured Saskatchewan's first apparent first tornado of 2022 on Tuesday evening.
Some food vendors at Mosaic Stadium are pausing preparations for the preseason as the CFL strike has potential to postpone the first exhibition game of the year.
The Williston Basin Petroleum Conference has returned to Regina after three years away due to the pandemic.
NEW THIS MORNING
NEW THIS MORNING | 'Please' before 'cheese': Answers to your royal etiquette questions
Buckingham Palace has released new details on Prince Charles and his wife Camilla’s three-day tour of Canada next month, which includes a stop in Ottawa.
Experts say supply chain issues and panic buying are leading to baby formula shortages.
Former Epic Alliance employee says firm 'pushed' for higher appraisals of homes it sold to investors
A former employee of Epic Alliance says the firm sometimes "pushed" for higher appraisals on homes sold to landlords and would rent to tenants who would "destroy" properties
With the University of Saskatchewan research team monitoring the city's wastewater for signs of COVID-19 noting an 85 per cent drop in its latest update, experts in the city say the trend is cause for cautious optimism.
Saskatoon Police Service officers are not permitted to wear Thin Blue Line patches, according to a report to the Board of Police Commissioners.