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
Lamenting a uniquely American tragedy, an anguished and angry U.S. President Joe Biden delivered an urgent call for new restrictions on firearms Tuesday night after a gunman shot and killed 19 children at a Texas elementary school.
Bill 96, the provincial government's controversial legislation aimed at protecting the French language in Quebec, has been adopted in the National Assembly.
Connecticut U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, who came to Congress representing Sandy Hook, begged his colleagues to finally pass legislation addressing the nation's gun violence problem as the latest school shooting unfolded Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine may have marked the start of "a third world war," and Russian President Vladimir Putin must be defeated "as soon as possible" if the world wants to preserve civilization, said billionaire and philanthropist George Soros.
Canadian musician Jacob Hoggard has emphatically denied raping a teenager and a young woman nearly six years ago, testifying Tuesday that both encounters were consensual and "passionate."
Provincial provider Hydro One said Tuesday afternoon that more than 142,000 customers in parts of Ontario were still without power after a devastating weekend storm.
Travellers who have a flight planned at Victoria International Airport (YYJ) on Tuesday afternoon are being warned of travel disruptions due to police activity.
Canada is sending an additional 20,000 rounds of ammunition to Ukraine for the Ukrainian military to use in its ongoing defence against the Russians. This ammunition—155mm calibre, as well as fuses and charge bags—is being donated, but comes at a cost of $98 million, according to the federal government.
Toronto radio host John Derringer was absent from Q107's 'Derringer in the Morning' Tuesday after former colleague Jennifer Valentyne posted a lengthy video on social media over the weekend alleging harassment and gender discrimination within the workplace.
Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservative party have widened their lead ahead of next week's Ontario election, a new survey suggests.
Environment Canada has confirmed that an EF2 tornado touched down in Uxbridge on Saturday as a powerful weather system made its way through Ontario, tearing apart homes and knocking out power to thousands of people.
Two lawyers are criticizing a decision Tuesday to allow senior RCMP witnesses to avoid cross-examination before the inquiry investigating the 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia.
A report looking into a mapping program the RCMP had access to -- but couldn't open -- during the 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia concludes it could have helped contain the killer's rampage.
The Atlantic hurricane season, which spans from June 1 to Nov. 30, is expected to be a busy one. Experts from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration out of the United States, along with those from the Canadian Hurricane Centre, released predictions for the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane season Tuesday.
London, Ont. Mayor Ed Holder will be retiring from politics at the end of the current term of council.
If you need a feel-good story for your Tuesday evening, the Saugeen Shores Police Service might have just the one.
As of Tuesday, power has been restored to most London Hydro customers. While some residents in areas including London’s Old East Village endured severe damage during the storm, some people are still without electricity.
Gateway to the Arts has been located on North Bay's Main Street in the city's downtown for just more than two years.
Advance Voting is underway in Sudbury and officials with Elections Ontario say thousands have already come out to cast a ballot.
For the first time in two decades, Parry Sound-Muskoka is going to have a new MPP after the June 2 election.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored his second goal of the night with 3:27 left in regulation as the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Calgary Flames 5-3 on Tuesday to take a 3-1 lead in the teams' second-round playoff series.
Walk Banff Avenue and store after store has signs looking for help.
An 11-year-old girl from Claresholm, Alta. is recovering after being attacked by a dog last Thursday.
Power has now been fully restored in Waterloo region, but cleanup efforts will continue for a few days.
Some local fitness enthusiasts are looking for their money back after purchasing tickets to a popular extreme obstacle course event.
A fruit once forbidden to children at the former Mohawk Institute residential school in Brantford, Ont. will grow on the grounds once again.
The discovery of a suspicious package forced the shutdown of Victoria International Airport on Tuesday, stranding hundreds of travellers and preventing a number of planes from landing on schedule.
A Coquitlam couple says they’ve been paying more than $1,000 a month for a cancer treatment, even though the drug that’s not being fully covered is already approved and funded in B.C.
A new advocacy group of B.C. family doctors is coming forward to say the primary care crisis in the province isn’t the result of too few physicians, but a matter of priorities and compensation that could be solved virtually overnight.
A lawyer representing an Alberta man accused of killing two Métis hunters says his client had no choice but to shoot the men to protect himself, his father and younger brother.
A crew of workers from ENWIN Utilities is heading to central Ontario Tuesday evening to assist with power restoration efforts after a weekend storm knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people.
Mason Kohn and the Windsor Lancers are heading to Merritt, B.C. at the end of the summer to help build five homes for people in the First Nations communities in Nicola Valley displaced by wildfires and floods last year.
Saskatchewan healthcare officials announced that the province underwent a record breaking increase of new HIV cases, with 237 new diagnoses in 2021.
As more unmarked graves are discovered near the sites of former residential schools, survivors say validation and awareness are two key outcomes from the findings.
COVID-19 viral levels in Regina’s wastewater levels have bounced back up again in the latest analysis from the University of Regina, following several weeks of a downward trend.
City officials in Ottawa say it could be another two to three days to restore power, but Hydro Ottawa is assuring the community that progress is being made.
Ottawa schools that have power will be open Wednesday, but many schools remain closed.
City officials say gas supply issues and long lineups at the pumps should be resolved as soon as hydro is restored.
Saskatoon police are searching for a second suspect in connection to a fatal shooting in the city's Nutana neighbourhood.
Saskatoon City Council has approved the criteria to be used in selecting a site for a downtown arena and convention centre.