OHS Canada Magazine

Civil liberties group condemns Quebec COVID-19 curfew, private gathering ban


By Jacob Serebrin

MONTREAL — A national civil rights advocacy organization has condemned Quebec’s COVID-19 curfew, as well as its ban on private gatherings.

Cara Zwibel, director of fundamental freedoms and acting general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said the government has presented no evidence that a curfew will work to slow the spread of the virus.

“A curfew is particularly problematic because it purports to empower police officers to stop and question individuals simply for being outdoors at certain times of day,” Zwibel said in a statement issued Friday evening. “The burden of these police stops is likely to fall disproportionately on racialized individuals and other marginalized groups.”

The 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew came into effect on Friday evening, one day after Premier Francois Legault announced the measure at a news conference in Montreal amid warnings the province’s health-care system was at risk of being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.

“It’s an extreme action to take,” Legault told reporters, “because the situation is extreme.”

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Zwibel said the CCLA is also concerned about the province’s ban on private gatherings, adding the association would like to see the measures reconsidered. It’s also calling for the province to be clear about how it will decide when the measures are lifted.

Quebec is the only province in Canada to use a curfew as part of its efforts to control the spread of COVID-19. A previous curfew introduced in early January 2021 was in effect for more than five months.

The new curfew has been criticized by the four opposition parties in the province’s legislature.

Meanwhile, as of Saturday, neither the ministerial decree nor the government website listed an exemption for people walking their dogs — a provision of the province’s previous curfew.

An older version of the website, obtained through the Internet Archive, shows that dog-walking was included on the list of exceptions posted on the government website Friday but has since been removed.

The Health Department did not respond Saturday to a request for comment on whether it is legal for people to walk their dogs during the curfew. The office of Health Minister Christian Dube referred questions about the exception from The Canadian Press to the office of Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault, who referred questions back to health.

Quebec reported 17,122 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, the fifth straight day that a record number of new infections have been reported in the province.

The Health Department said the number of hospitalizations linked to the disease rose by 98 to 1,161, with 252 people admitted and 154 discharged.

It said 153 people are in intensive care, an increase of two.

Eight additional deaths associated with COVID-19 were recorded on Friday, officials said.

The Health Department said 58,453 COVID-19 tests were analyzed Friday and 31 per cent came back positive.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.