Fifty years ago, I was a young teen growing up in Montreal. The flames of separation were being fanned by a group called Front de libération du Québec (FLQ).
The FLQ kidnapped British High Commissioner James Cross and days later, Quebec Minister Pierre Laporte. Laporte’s body was found in the trunk of a car at St. Hubert airport a week later.
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau imposed the War Measures Act, which allowed him the ability to deploy troops to the streets of Montreal and extraordinary detention powers.
I remember some older teens in my neighbourhood were arrested just for going for a cocktail in a downtown club. In another incident, a bomb blew apart the mailbox at the corner of my street triggering a military response. It was a frightening time.
Looking at the video clips of the streets of Montreal on the weekend, when a curfew was implemented, triggered many memories for me. People just walking down the street were arrested just for drinking a coffee in public or trying to flag a cab in the downtown area.
The big difference today is there has been no triggering of anything like the War Measures Act, which could legally suspend what was then the Canadian Bill of Rights enacted in 1960. Today, the government of Quebec is just doing what they are doing without any legal authority.
It is very troubling that any government in this country could arbitrarily just suspend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on a whim.
My biggest concern is that citizens seem to have just rolled over and allowed the government to have their way.
We have enshrined rights in this country, earned with the blood of thousands of young men who fought and died for Canada to be free in several wars. They must be turning over in their graves.
Freedom is not a nebulous concept. It allows you to go where you want, when you want and to be free of impediment assuming you have done nothing against the law in the process.
The government of Quebec has decided to take our freedom away with no legal authority. And the Government of Ontario is considering the same ridiculous action. And for what?
I’m no lawyer, but when the Charter was introduced, we had a lot of training drumming into our heads the ramifications of the Charter and our actions as police officers.
Section 2, Section 7 and Section 15 of the Charter grant absolute rights to all Canadians that no government can infringe.
Section 2: the freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of thought and opinion and freedom of assembly.
Section 7: the right to life, liberty and security and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.
Section 15: Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination.
The caveat is that if a government does breach the Charter, those actions are subject to “reasonable limits.” The government must prove in a court the breach of the Charter achieves a “pressing and substantial objective.” The government needs to justify that the breach is minimal and the benefits of the breach outweigh its negative impact.
It’s hard to imagine the curfew in Quebec could possibly be justified in any court in this country. Yet, the streets of Montreal have been emptied and those who don’t follow along are subject to arrest or substantial fines ranging upwards of $6000.
If there is any substantial evidence that a curfew or lockdown has any affect on the spread of the pandemic, I have yet to see it. The government of Quebec is acting like totalitarian dictators. And there is nothing noble in that.
If Ontario Premier Doug Ford travels down this same path, he faces destruction at the ballot box in the next election.