MONTREAL – The union representing Quebec’s special constables took the government to court Monday, seeking a judgment that would bolster their numbers across the province.
Special constables have long argued that there are too few of them at the province’s courthouses, where they are increasingly being replaced by private security.
They first filed the action against the province in June 2016, calling on the government to reverse that trend.
A union representative said in an interview Monday that more constables would help put an end to situations like the shooting of a young man at the courthouse Maniwaki, Que., last week.
Quebec’s bureau of independent investigations is probing the altercation between a special constable working alone at the Maniwaki courthouse and an 18-year-old man.
The man was hospitalized with a gunshot wound to the head following the scuffle with the constable, part of which was caught on film.
Franck Perales, president of the union, said it has been sounding the alarm since 2014 about a shortfall of constables, but their warnings have fallen on deaf ears.
The union argues the province has opted for private security for financial reasons, but they lack experience and proper training.
Perales said despite this, they routinely perform tasks that should fall to special constables.
He said the presence of private security gives the false illusion of a secure environment, citing what happened in Maniwaki on Wednesday as a prime example.
Last Friday, the government assured that in the wake of last week’s shooting, courthouses that previously only had one constable on duty would now have two.
Perales called that move a step in the right direction.
The union has two goals with the court challenge being heard in Quebec City this week by Superior Court Justice Jean-Francois Emond.
They want to prove that the province’s Public Security and Justice Departments aren’t respecting their obligations by entrusting courthouse security more and more to private security firms instead of special constables who should perform the tasks.
And they want the province to remedy the situation.
The union alleges a lack of adequate staffing compromises the safety of employees, the public and constables themselves.