Controversial Montreal protest bylaw banning masks no longer enforced by police

P-6, a controversial Montreal bylaw that requires protesters to give their route and prohibits them from wearing masks, hasn't been enforced in nearly three years.

P-6 requires protesters to provide an itinerary and prohibits masks, but hasn't been enforced since 2015

Anarchopanda became an unofficial mascot of the Quebec student protesters in 2012. Julien Villeneuve, the CEGEP professor behind the costume, was among the activists critical of P-6. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

A controversial Montreal bylaw that requires protesters to give their route and prohibits them from wearing masks hasn't been applied for nearly three years — and could soon be scrapped altogether. 

Nathalie Goulet, the executive committee member responsible for public security, said Tuesday the Plante administration is against the bylaw, P-6, though she didn't provide a timeline for when it could be repealed.

Montreal police haven't enforced the bylaw since 2015, after portions of it were subject to court challenges.

​The bylaw was put in place at the height of the student protests in May 2012 by former mayor Gérald Tremblay's administration.

Projet Montréal pressed for the law to be scrapped when the party was in opposition.

Goulet said following a public security committee hearing on Tuesday evening that her party's position hasn't changed.

The hearings are being held in public as part of an effort by the Plante administration to be more transparent.

Insp. Pascal Richard said that the police department "took note of the court decisions" and assured that it hasn't been applying the bylaw even though it's still in effect.

"The courts told us plainly that we could no longer apply it. It does not matter whether you have the route or not, you do not declare an illegal demonstration," he said during the hearing.

As a result of court challenges, Montreal police also decided to no longer make multiple arrests, Richard said.

Mass arrests now a 'last resort'

In the future, he said, mass arrests will only be done "as a last resort, if we have no choice." 

Instead, he said, the priority is to make "targeted arrests" in a situation where some protests are violent.

"This is the strategy we advocate," he said.

Insp. André Durocher, another Montreal officer, said plainclothes police wearing masks stopped doing undercover work during protests in 2015.

In the past, this practice created "some conflicts when the police were unmasked and we had to go extract them," Durocher said.

"We decided to change our strategy. It was counterproductive."

There were 319 street demonstrations in 2017 compared to 422 the previous year. The record year dates back to 2012, when there 828 demonstrations.

More Montreal news

Based on a report by Radio-Canada's Romain Schué


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