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Wheelchair user beaten, robbed while using Montreal metro station elevator


A man who uses a wheelchair says he was badly beaten and robbed while trying to board an elevator at the Berri-UQAM metro station in downtown Montreal last Friday.

The attack has left Alexandre Vallerand shaken and afraid to ride the metro alone.

"I wonder now," said the 29-year-old actor, who has cerebral palsy. "I need to go back, but is it safe to go there?"

On March 3, Vallerand was returning home from a downtown theatre when he came upon a group of men crowding the entrance to one of the elevators inside Berri-UQAM station.

Vallerand repeatedly asked them to move, but he says he was ignored.

"I asked for 15 minutes, 'Could you move? What do you want me to do, use the stairs?'" he said.

Eventually, Vallerand tried to push past the group, but accidentally rolled over one of the men's feet. That's when they attacked him, he says.

"He just punched me back. He punched me," Vallerand said. "I tried to block, but I'm disabled. I'm handicapped, so it's quite hard when you are in a wheelchair to protect yourself."

The men then took off with Vallerand's headphones, mocking him as they ran away.

"They stole my headphones and go out and said, 'haha, you're a loser,'" Vallerand recounted.

It's the nightmare scenario for mobility rights advocates.

"As much as we like to tell us that we are on an equal basis to any other citizen in Montreal, that's not the case when it comes to our personal security," said Laurent Morissette of disability rights group RAPLIQ, who himself uses a wheelchair.

Safe access to the metro opens up the city to people with disabilities, he said, adding more should be done to protect them.

"I don't want to be ghettoized," Morissette said. "We don't want to live in a small space, a fenced in space. We want to thrive as full-fledged citizens."

Vallerand reported the incident to police but was unsatisfied with the response he received. An inspector told him he should consider avoiding certain metro stations, Vallerand said.

"What are we going to do?" he demanded. "This is Montreal. Do something. I want to go see my cinema, and I want to go see my theatre. It's my right, and you don't [anything]."

In an email to CTV News, the STM called the attack "deplorable" and "regrettable."

The STM and the SPVM are working to implement an action plan on safety in the metro before the end of winter. Top Stories

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