Montreal

Judge refuses injunction request ahead of ban on Montreal calèches

Luc Desparois, the owner of Lucky Luc stables, filed an injunction earlier this week, asking for the ban to be suspended while the merits of the regulation were debated.

Owner of Lucky Luc stables had asked for the ban to be put on hold

Lucky Luc stable has been operating in Griffintown since 1994. The injunction filed by its owner against Montreal's ban on horse-drawn carriages was rejected Friday. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Horse-drawn carriages will be off the streets of Montreal in the New Year after a Quebec judge refused a stable owner's last-ditch request to suspend the city's coming ban.

Luc Desparois, the owner of Lucky Luc stables, filed an injunction earlier this week, asking for the ban to be suspended while the merits of the regulation were debated.

The ban on the carriages — also known as calèches — will go into effect Jan. 1. 

In his ruling, Quebec Superior Court Justice Michel Pinsonnault said that despite the sympathy he had for calèche drivers, the request did not satisfy the criteria for the emergency injunction, citing the fact the city announced the ban more than 16 months ago.

While Pinsonnault did not grant the suspension, he did say that the case brought by the group deserved to be heard on its merits.

The city introduced the bylaw after a series of incidents involving calèche horses, ranging from their collapse in the summer heat to a collision with a car.

Luc Desparois plans to continue to fight the ban on horse-drawn carriages. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Audi Gozlan, the lawyer representing the drivers, said it was clear why an emergency injunction should have been granted.

"These drivers and owners will be out of business [in 12 days]. They will lose their investments, their equity in their business. They'll be unemployed," he said.

Gozlan said the legal fight over isn't over yet. He said he hopes to be back in court in a few weeks, seeking another injunction.

'No harm done to any horse': Luc Desparois

Desparois said he was disappointed and frustrated by the decision. He said he would have filed the injunction earlier but needed money to hire a lawyer.

"We want to try to keep working, we don't find that it's right to [force] us out of Old Montreal," he said. "There's no main reason, there's no harm done to any horse."

"They're saying 'poor horse, poor horse,' but never showing any proof!" he said.

"It's not because a horse slips down that it's [mistreated], with all the people that may slip on the ground."

Luc Desparois said he was disappointed and frustrated by the decision, saying it was "just not fair" that carriage drivers were being forced out of the city. (Radio-Canada)

Desparois was found guilty of making his horse work in extreme heat last July. An inspector found the horse, Fred, pulling a carriage when it was 29 C outside.

In November 2018, another one of his horses died while on duty.

Montreal's deputy mayor, Sterling Downey, said the city was not surprised by the decision to refuse the injunction. 

"We took all the proper measures and gave the industry the year," said Downey. "They had ample time to do it and present it in front of a judge." 

He said the city also gave calèche owners the opportunity to better regulate their industry themselves before finally resorting to the ban.

"The industry lay dormant and did nothing, and this is where we're at," Downey said. 

Downey said Montreal's calèches are part of the city's history, but their historical value is no reason to keep the industry alive. 

"The world was built on a lot of ways of doing things that are no longer considered acceptable," Downey said. 

"The way we used to do something is no longer an argument to keep doing things the same way."

Owners like Desparois have been entitled to compensation since May 1.

Horse owners have been offered $1,000, and the SPCA and another animal rights association have said they will help place the animals with adoptive families and shelters.

Desparois said even if the industry fails to get the ban overturned, he'd at least like to see additional compensation.

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