When Montreal clamped down on unpaid parking tickets

You had to pay or you were going to stay put.

In 1983, city started placing 'Denver boots' on cars whose owners had four-plus unpaid tickets

Pay or stay parked

40 years ago
Duration 1:55
In September 1983, The National looks at a strategy being used in Montreal to motivate people to pay their unpaid parking tickets.

You were going to stay put if you didn't pay.

It was an outcome Montreal drivers had to consider once their city began being wielding wheel clamps.

"This boot is made not for walking, but for locking — locking the wheel of a Montreal car owner with four or more unpaid parking tickets," reporter Don Macpherson said at the start of a report that aired on The National on Sept. 13, 1983.

As Macpherson explained, the device known as a Denver boot would stay clamped to a car wheel and render it immobile until the driver dealt with those same unpaid parking tickets.

Legal considerations?

Smirking woman
Reporter Don Macpherson talked to a couple of people on the street about their reaction to the rolling out of wheel clamps in Montreal. The people shown in his report seemed to like the idea. (The National/CBC Archives)

It was a tactic the City of Montreal began using that summer, in a bid to get drivers to pay what they owed. It seemed to be working: drivers had together paid nearly $300,000 since the boot was introduced.

While some lawyers intended to challenge the use of the tactic in court, Macpherson said "if the courts uphold its use, other Canadian cities may try the boot on for size."

Newspaper reports in the Globe and Mail indicate that while use of the wheel clamps was halted briefly that fall as a result of a judge's ruling, the Denver boots were brought back into service in February 1984.

The devices continue to make the news from time to time, like when Montreal reintroduced them to city streets in 2011 after not using them for a couple of years, or when a West Island hotel made them available to guests to prevent their cars from being stolen.

Pair of hands applies yellow device to car wheel
A so-called Denver boot, or wheel clamp, is seen being applied to a vehicle on a Montreal street in 1983. (The National/CBC Archives)

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