Quebec police hand out hundreds of tickets for not respecting physical distancing
Police have been given special powers to issue costly penalties, and they are using them
Quebec police were busy over the weekend — enforcing the rules aimed at preventing the further spread of COVID-19.
The Sûreté du Québec said they handed out of 157 tickets over the weekend, while SPVM Insp. André Durocher said officers in Montreal issued a total of 146 tickets.
"There are, unfortunately, people who are still not following the guidelines issued by authorities," Durocher said in an interview with Radio-Canada.
Police were given the power last Friday to issue fines directly to those who are not respecting the provincial ban on indoor and outdoor gatherings.
Quebec's director of criminal and penal prosecutions (DPCP) gave those two police forces the power to issue $1,000 fines the same way they would a speeding ticket. Prosecutors can set the fines as high as $6,000.
A DPCP spokesperson said logistical work needs to be done before other forces in the province are granted the same powers.
But that limitation hasn't stopped some municipal police services from finding other ways to punish those who disobey public health orders.
Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, a city 40 kilometres southeast of Montreal, gave its police force the power to issue tickets as part of bylaw enforcement.
Tightened restrictions in parks
Durocher said police are also enforcing the closure of the parking lots at the top of Mount Royal in order to stop people from gathering there in large numbers. Île Notre-Dame is also closed.
He said officers noted that many people at downtown parks were from suburbs outside the city, raising concerns about the disease spreading further.
Mayor Valérie Plante said Sunday the measures were necessary in order to keep parks from becoming too crowded for Montrealers who live in nearby apartment buildings or condominiums to be able to use them.
Access to green space will be essential to allow people to cope with an extended period without bars, restaurants and municipal facilities, she said. But if public-health directives aren't followed, she warned she would close other parks, as well.
For his part, Quebec Premier François Legault said "the vast majority of Quebecers" are respecting the directives.
"I think it's a question of respecting your neighbours, respecting everybody. It's serious."