A woman who challenged a fine she received for attending a protest against the curfew imposed by the Quebec government during the Covid-19 lockdown has lost her court case.
Stéphanie Pépin was charged by police for being out in public past 8:00 pm on Jan. 9, 2021, while she was on her way to attend a 9:00 pm protest against the curfew.
The curfew was imposed by Quebec Premier Francois Legault’s government earlier that same day.
Quebec was the only province in Canada and the only jurisdiction in North America to place a curfew on its citizens.
The curfew law first came into effect on Jan. 9, 2021 and lasted until May 28, 2021. It was later reinstated from Dec. 21, 2021 until Jan. 17, 2022.
People were prohibited from leaving their homes between the hours of 8:00 pm and 5:00 am and police officers were permitted to issue fines ranging from $1,000 to $6,000 to violators under the Public Health Act.
Pépin challenged the fine under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, arguing that sections of the Public Health Act were unjustified and violated her constitutional rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
Her hearing took place from Sept. 18-21, 2023, with lawyers provided to her by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom.
Justice Marie-France Beaulieu found the curfew justified.
Quebec’s National Director of Public Health Dr. Horacio Arruda and Dr. Richard Massé, the architect of the Public Health Act, were both subpoenaed by Pépin’s lawyers to justify the curfew.
“There have been dozens of challenges to the curfew law, but this one was different. This is the first time in Canadian history that the crafters of the laws under scrutiny were questioned under oath, and it became evident they had no constitutional basis on which to act,” said lawyer Olivier Séguin, who represented Pépin.
Pépin intends to appeal the ruling.