Quebec’s second opposition party is calling for people experiencing homelessness to be exempt from the government-imposed curfew.
Alexandre Leduc, a member of Quebec solidaire, said Wednesday his party is concerned after hearing reports that homeless people have been ticketed in Val-d’Or and Montreal for violating the health order.
With the majority of Quebecers following the curfew — which requires people stay home between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. — Leduc said there should be more flexibility for people on the street, who he said are already disadvantaged.
He’s said he’s worried about people with addictions because most shelters don’t allow people to use drugs or alcohol. People who are homeless should not be subject to the curfew, he said.
Laury Bacro, a community organizer with an advocacy group for people experiencing homelessness, the Reseau d’aide aux personnes seules et itinerantes de Montreal, said she’s heard about two people experiencing homelessness receiving tickets for being outside after curfew, including one person who was ticketed Tuesday night.
Shelters are running out of space, Bacro said, adding that some people are avoiding them because they’re worried about getting COVID-19. Other homeless people, she said, have been banned from shelters.
“We can’t force people to go stay in a shelter,” Bacro said. “We’re talking about people, not objects that we can move from one place to another.” Fining homeless people, she said, won’t help anyone.
Montreal police spokeswoman Const. Annabelle Prato said police officers have been asked to use their judgment when dealing with homeless people who are outdoors after 8 p.m. In an email Wednesday, she said police are looking at the context of each situation and, when possible, helping homeless people access available resources.
Premier Francois Legault imposed a curfew until at least Feb. 8 as a way to limit people’s contacts and reduce COVID-19 transmission. Health officials say hospitals, especially in the Montreal area, are overwhelmed with COVID patients and risk having to ration care.
Essential workers who have to be outside between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. are required to carry a letter from their employer explaining their status.
Sarah Vresk, who works in snow removal, said she was on her way to work shortly before 4 a.m. on Jan. 12, when police stopped her. She said she gave the officer her employer’s letter. Then, she said, he asked to look inside her lunch bag, which she said was sitting on the passenger seat.
When she refused, she said the officer told her the letter was “just a piece of paper” and threatened to give her a ticket for violating the curfew.
“It really felt like he didn’t believe me because I didn’t want to open my bag,” she said in an interview. “It felt very much inferred that if I didn’t open the bag, then he would have more questions about the letter, or then the letter would not be valid.”
She said the police let her go without a ticket shortly after she showed them the contents of the bag.