More than $ 28 million in fines imposed on Quebec during confinement
While Quebec’s strict public health measures are finally reduced, thousands of lawsuits are still underway as people fight – or ignore tickets – issued for offenses ranging from breaking the curfew to gathering in houses.
Provincial authorities issued 19,074 tickets for violating the province’s Public Health Act between April 1, 2020 and May 31 of this year, according to documents provided by the Quebec prosecution service, also known as the name of DPCP.
This amounts to $ 28,622,850 in fines. Crown spokesperson Audrey Roy Cloutier said the Bureau of Offenses and Fines compiles the data and it is updated periodically.
Prime Minister François Legault called on the police to apply public health measures at the start of the pandemic, with fines generally hovering around $ 1,500 with costs.
Fines of up to $ 6,000 were possible in some cases, as the Prime Minister has said repeatedly, “we cannot allow a minority of people to endanger the majority”.
Montreal at the top of tickets issued
In Montreal, 6,155 tickets were issued, making it the highest number by municipality, according to the data. This amounts to over $ 9.2 million in fines.
This is not surprising as it is also the most populous city in the province, but Quebec City did not take second place despite being the second largest population. The police issued 1,774 tickets there,
Meanwhile, the police were busy in Terrebonne. A total of 1,896 tickets were issued in the city, which, located just northeast of Montreal, has a population of approximately 116,000.
No other municipality exceeded the 1,000 tickets issued.
Some of the highest tickets by municipality include:
Sherbrooke is not included in the data.
As for going to court, 7,001 people pleaded not guilty to the offense while 1,224 pleaded guilty and paid the fine. 1,604 other people simply paid the fine without pleading, and 2,651 other tickets are still pending without any plea or payment.
A total of 6,694 people had not paid or filed a plea within the legal deadline, according to the data.
Judicial processing will not be slowed down
Roy Cloutier said court processing time has not been slowed by the influx of public health violations. She said recent efforts to improve the processing time of all cases are paying off.
She said a defendant who receives notice must come forward within 30 days by sending a plea. Payment of the amount claimed is considered a guilty plea.
If a not guilty plea is filed within the allotted time, legal proceedings will continue and the defendant will receive a notice indicating when to appear in court to contest the ticket, Roy Cloutier said.
“On that date, if the accused maintains his not guilty plea, a hearing will take place so that the court decides whether or not he is guilty on the basis of the evidence that will be presented,” she said.
As for these nearly 7,000 people who simply did not respond at all to the ticket, the procedure will continue in the absence of the accused.
“This is commonly referred to as a ‘default test’. Based on the evidence presented by the prosecution, the court will decide whether the accused is guilty or not, ”she said.
If found guilty, the accused will receive an invoice in the mail, she said.
Health Canada says measures are working
In April, modeling by the Public Health Agency of Canada found that strict public health measures implemented in some provinces were slowing the rapid spread of COVID-19.
In particular, province-wide restrictions and blockages in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec are quickly showing results.
The number of cases has slowly stabilized in most provinces, but data suggests infection rates continue to rise in Alberta and Manitoba.
“We are confident that strengthened measures can slow growth where more contagious variants circulate, but sustained measures and individual practices are the key to keeping growth low,” said at the time the Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada.
Either way, a massive protest took place a few weeks later in Montreal. Halfway through, the parade was to stretch for nearly two kilometers.
The protest was one of many against Quebec’s public health restrictions, but it was only after the situation in the province began to improve dramatically last month that the premier announced the gradual return to a normal life.