Montreal man with disability speaks out after downtown Metro station assault

Alexandre Vallerand, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, says he was punched in the side of the head while trying to get on an elevator at Berri-UQAM Metro.

Alexandre Vallerand wants the Metro to be more accessible

a man in a wheelchair wearing a black coat speaking to the camera
Alexandre Vallerand says he was punched while trying to get on the elevator at Berri-UQAM metro. (CBC)

Montreal actor Alexandre Vallerand says he was trying to go home after seeing a film at a festival on March 3 when he was attacked at Berri-UQAM Metro station.

Vallerand, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, was trying to get on an elevator he says was blocked by a group of people for 15 minutes.

Disheartened, he tried to push past the group and accidentally ran over someone's foot. That's when he says he was punched in the side of the head and had his headphones stolen.

"Someone hit me. Someone was frustrated. I tried to defend myself, but I couldn't," he said.

Vallerand filed a police complaint and said he was told to avoid the Berri-UQAM station. A police officer even suggested he get a bodyguard, he said.

But Vallerand believes that response is insufficient.

"The thing that's the saddest is that the people from the subway station, the security guard and even the cops and the population around don't know what to do," said Vallerand.

"I asked them, 'What will you do next? What do I need to do to protect myself?' I'm a bit scared about the fact that it went so far."

CBC reached out to Montreal police but didn't receive a response at time of publication.

People stand in a busy subway station as a train passes by.
Vallerand says the assault occurred at the Berri-UQAM station, seen here in 2019. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

'Absolutely regrettable'

Last month, the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) released data showing a rise in complaints on the Metro and bus networks.

The STM said in a statement that it can't comment on a specific case, but a spokesperson says the transit authority and Montreal police are working on an action plan for the Metro network.

"It's absolutely regrettable that a more vulnerable person was the victim of such an act," said Justine Lord-Dufour. "We understand this was a difficult experience for this person."

Vallerand hopes the STM and city officials will step in to make the Metro and the city a safer and more accessible place.

"I didn't like the answer of the cops telling me that Berri-UQAM is not a safe place," said Vallerand. "They don't have any answers."

Based on a report by Matt D'Amours