Quebec public security minister announces province-wide police operation for the weekend
MONTREAL -- Police forces across Quebec have been asked to increase their presence in bars and restaurants over the weekend, with a particular emphasis on regions in the province's "yellow" zones.
Quebec Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault made the announcement at a news conference Friday. She was joined by acting Surete du Quebec director Johanne Beausoleil, Quebec City police director Robert Pigeon and Montreal police chief Sylvain Caron.
"This is an operation that is massive, that is visible, and that will aim to detect some places where there may be some problems or violations," Guilbault said. "We will concentrate more specifically on the regions that are in yellow."
Police will be making sure public health guidelines are followed and handing out infractions to both businesses and clients who defy them.
"It will be up to them to evaluate the situation," Guilbault said.
Many bar owners welcome the crackdown, saying most establishments are being careful and those who aren't are ruining it for others.
"Some of our members are quite stupid. Last weekend we had a bar owner who allowed dancing on his dancefloor, about 100 persons, no mask, everybody packed together," said Jean-Jacques Beauchamp of the Quebec Bar Owners' Association.
Other bar owners say they don't know why the government is focusing so much attention on bars and restaurants when health officials keep saying small, private gatherings are the biggest problem.
"Certainly bars and restaurants are being given a lot of attention right now and it seems we’re the low-hanging fruit," said Mike Silas of Montreal's Typhoon Lounge.
Many were expecting the government to announce increased powers for police to enter homes and break up private gatherings -- particularly because many of the province's latest COVID-19 cases have been linked back to these events.
Guilbault said Quebec hasn't reached that point yet.
"It would be false to think that there are no problems in these establishments and that it’s useless to do some interventions," she said.
Quebec director of public health Horacio Arruda spoke of the potential for police to serve as a deterrent, similar to the police presence on the highways that helps reduce speeding and other traffic violations.
Quebec's opposition parties have come out against police entering private residences to break up parties.
Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said she agrees with the measures as long as they aren't abused.
"We don't like police interfering in the private sphere - but that being said we've done it in the first wave - with tickets for example," Plante said.
Guilbault said Friday's announcement will suffice for the moment given the violations the province has seen in bars and restaurants.
"First of all, you have to remember every week we see images in bars – dance floors that are full..." she said. "So we have to admit that there are some problematic situations in bars and in restaurants, currently."
Guilbault added that police forces across the province have come up with individual intervention plans.
"Our police officers will be very visible in Quebec over the weekend," she said.
Guilbault is inviting clients at restaurants and bars who notice public health violations to notify staff and managers and, if nothing is done, to contact police.
"Everyone has got the power right now to stop a second wave," she said.
As of Friday, Quebec regions in the "yellow" or "early warning" zone include Bas-Saint-Laurent, Quebec City, the Eastern Townships, Montreal, Outaouais, Chaudiere-Appalaches, Laval, and Monteregie.
-- with files from The Canadian Press.