Montreal bagpiper fined $220 for carrying traditional knife

Montreal piper Jeff McCarthy says he's never had a problem with wearing his formal attire, including the traditional knife tucked in a sock, in 25 years of performing.

Jeff McCarthy says he's never had problem with formal attire in 25 years

Montreal piper Jeff McCarthy hasn't decided yet if he is going to contest the ticket. (Shaun Malley/CBC)

Jeff McCarthy says for the last 25 years, whenever he is walking the streets of Montreal in his kilt, he also has a Scottish traditional knife protruding from his right sock.

The sgian dubh – a small knife, pronounced skean dhu – is part of the traditional dress and is regarded as a "sign of friendship... and good faith," he explained.

"It's never been a problem."

But McCarthy ran into trouble on his way to play the bagpipes at McGill University's fall convocation at Place-des-Arts Wednesday. 

He was stopped by Montreal police officers and fined $220 for carrying a knife in public.

"I was quite shocked," he told CBC. "I wasn't walking down the street waving the knife in a violent manner."

The sgian dubh is a small, traditional Scottish knife. (Shaun Malley/CBC)
McCarthy was ticketed under a municipal bylaw that prohibits anyone from carrying a knife or "similar weapon" in a public place or transit vehicle "without a reasonable excuse."

He tried to explain to the three officers why he was carrying the knife, attached to his hose underneath his kilt and sporran, but to no avail.

"I think this law was applied to me in a very harsh way," he said.

At one point, McCarthy said two more officers arrived and confiscated the sgian dubh, saying he'd have to pay the fine in order to get it back.

He hasn't yet decided if he's going to contest the ticket. In the meantime, McCarthy says he'd like to see the police show a little more respect towards Scottish Montrealers.

"Scots were one of the founding peoples of Montreal, and the thistle is on the flag of Montreal. Let's see some corresponding respect."

McCarthy says carrying the sgian-dubh is a sign of friendship and good faith. (Submitted by Jeff McCarthy)

Asked about the fine, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said he does not know about the circumstances, but he questioned whether McCarthy posed a threat. 

"It's up to [the police]," said Coderre. "But maybe they should show some judgment, too." 


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?