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Lawyer warns of occasional ‘abusive’ curfew ticketing by Montreal police

Last Updated Jan 16, 2021 at 4:38 pm MST

MONTREAL (CityNews) – One week into Quebec’s provincewide curfew and there have been a handful of instances where police imposed the rules to an “abusive” degree, says a Montreal lawyer.

Lawyer Avi Levy, the founder of Ticket 911, says police need to be more flexible and understanding when it comes to handing out tickets between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. – Quebec’s curfew times for at least another three weeks.

Levy pointed to a few examples where essential workers with proper documentation were fined for being outside past 8 p.m.

“I don’t think that was the intention or the spirit of the curfew law,” said Levy. “And hopefully because it’s new, maybe there’s an adaptation period where the police officers adapt to the situation.”

Last week, Sarah Vresk was pulled over by police officers shortly after leaving her house at 4 a.m. to go to work. Vresk, who works in snow removal, is an essential worker.

Vresk showed the officers her attestation document – provided by her employer – but that wasn’t enough. Police demanded to know what was in her lunch bag and threatened to impose a curfew fine if she didn’t comply.

“We kind of went back and forth about that like ‘open the bag’ and ‘I don’t need to open the bag,’” recounted Vresk. “And he suggested that I was making things difficult, and I said ‘well you have my letter from my employer, isn’t that enough?’ And he said, ‘it’s just a piece of paper, what if I don’t believe you?’ And he said, ‘I could pull you over there, pull you around the corner and write you the ticket and you can explain that to your employer.

“He’s kind of equated me opening the bag with not getting the ticket, and it was to me a threat that he was going to give me the ticket if I didn’t.”

Vresk ended up giving in and showing the officer the contents of her bag. She was not fined.

Levy says it’s the perfect example of police taking things too far.

“It seems a bit abusive,” he said. “The police officer should not have threatened her to give her a ticket if she doesn’t show what’s in the lunch. As soon as he realized that she’s legitimately going for work, he should have just let her go and say ‘have a nice day.’”

In another instance of what Levy considered excessive, the lawyer shared the story of a woman who was followed by a police officer from her school library to her house. The officer allegedly waited for 7:59 p.m. – one minute before the start of curfew – to pull her over for speeding and tell her that she was out past curfew.

Montreal police say they have handed out roughly 185 fines related to the curfew since the measure was put in place last week.

In a statement to CityNews, SPVM simply said that “any person who is out or circulating after curfew must have a valid reason and provide proof of their reason for travel. They will also need to satisfactorily answer the officer’s questions.”

Levy warns that incidents of police excess may continue to take place for the duration of the curfew. Though he believes many of the tickets issued recently will be contested.

“Once the ticket is issued, they’re not going to get it cancelled and the only way to deal with it is to go to court and deal with it in a court of law,” he said. “I think if a lot of these tickets are given, then quite a few of them will be contested and hopefully with success.”