François Legault is a lot of things: he’s a millionaire, he’s a baby boomer, and he is a populist. He is also one of the few premiers to not need Montreal votes in order to end up in office, and the first anti-union Premier in Quebec since the bigoted and dictatorial Maurice Duplessis. Legault’s biggest crime as premier, however, is prioritizing the financial interests of wealthy baby boomers over the lives and safety of younger generations, and nowhere is this clearer than in Legault’s back-to-school plan.

We are still very much in the throes of a fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Right before the December holidays Quebec had a massive spike in cases due to the highly infectious Omicron variant for which Montreal schools accounted for nearly half of all outbreaks.

Numbers seem to have dropped over the holidays, but this is clearly not just because cases are being underreported due to the limited ability of home testing to detect of Omicron, and insane lineups to get an in-person test due to the highly infectious nature of this variant. It’s also because the kids have not been in school.

As I write this, it is the day before elementary and high-school students are required to return to in-person schooling, a plan for which Legault and his cronies in government are utterly inflexible. (ed’s note: the snow ended up cancelling many classes that the government did not)

“I think the government is putting on the illusion of caring for the kids, but really their motivation is money,” said “A”, a mother of two whose children are expected to return like all other Quebec kids on January 17, 2022. “They want parents back at work at all costs,” she said, adding that she is “f*cking scared to send them back.”

A is not the only one afraid to send her kids back. X is a teacher and mother of three, one of whom has severe, non-verbal Down’s syndrome. She says that since public health measures have been put in place over the last two years, her daughter – whose condition makes her especially vulnerable to lung and sinus infections – has been less sick than she has ever been in her life. X would rather her special needs child not get Omicron given the lack of research into how the variant will affect her morphology.

“She catches everything,” X says, knowing that when her sons, who attend regular elementary and high schools catch anything, her daughter will most likely get sick. Unlike other kids, her daughter cannot communicate symptoms like a sore throat, so her mother would only know to get her tested if she’s alerted by her school or shows visible signs of illness.

The child’s special needs also make it harder for her to address basic self-care, such as regularly drinking fluids so she doesn’t get dehydrated. That said, if given a choice between in-person schooling and online learning, X expresses distaste for online learning given the disastrous effect it has had on her sons’ mental health.

X is one of the few to propose an alternative to online learning and in-person schooling that the Quebec government seems to have willfully avoided considering: providing parents with homeschooling materials or even giving kids a break from schooling entirely, at least until the current wave passes.

“All this back and forth? What’s the point?” she asks, referring to the constant cycle of school closures and re-openings in response to the regular outbreaks in schools doing in person learning.

Carolyn Gehr, a high school math teacher with the English Montreal School Board, has concerns of her own, pointing out that there are currently no class bubbles in place, so you can have hundreds of unmasked kids in the hallways and cafeterias over lunchtime.

“It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” she says, adding that the government’s plan to call in parents to supervise classrooms when teachers are out with COVID cheapens the teaching profession, making them seem like “nothing more than glorified babysitters,”

“A” feels that none of the government’s decisions are based on the current science regarding COVID and the Omicron variant.

“It’s not a very good idea to send them back with even less rules about isolation and contacts. I won’t know if my kids have been in contact with a positive case and they could very well bring COVID to their aging grandparents, who despite being triple vaccinated, can still get severely ill,”

It’s no coincidence that this back to school plan will primarily affect working-aged adults while many wealthy Baby Boomers have the luxury of working from home or are retiring in droves and can therefore stay home safe from Omicron.

This is the not the first time the government’s COVID plan has put Gen X and younger generations in mortal danger either. Past vaccination campaigns that prioritized people with chronic illnesses with the over 65 camp, younger people with diseases such as diabetes that put them at a higher risk of developing complications from the virus were considered a lower priority for the COVID vaccine than Baby Boomers in perfect health. This is an issue that I raised on multiple occasions in interviews with CBC Radio last year.

François Legault’s actions are not the ones of a man ‘doing his best’ as many wealthy members of his generation believe. They’re the actions of someone who doesn’t care how many young people he kills in order to keep himself and his cohort rich and comfortable.

Legault is up for re-election this October and it would be wise of younger people across in Quebec to recognize his actions as those of a man who prioritizes pocketbooks over people and elect someone who will be more responsible with the health of ALL Quebeckers instead.

Featured Image of a painting by Samantha Gold

Quebec’s first pandemic curfew lasted for a few months in early 2021, the second one will last just over two weeks. It started on New Year’s Eve and ends Monday (January 17th).

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement at a mid-afternoon press conference joined by Health Minister Christian Dubé, interim National Director of Public Health Luc Boileau and Education Minister Jean-François Roberge. The latter was there because the premier also announced that elementary and secondary schools will re-open for in-person learning on Monday with students wearing masks indoors.

Legault also said that he hopes to re-open restaurant dining areas and performance venues in the coming weeks. That is, of course, for those who can prove they are “adequately vaccinated” against COVID.

The vaccine passport, meanwhile, will be required to enter big box stores (with the exception of grocery stores and pharmacies) as of January 21st.

The premier said that experts are telling him that the Omicron variant case numbers have peaked and that hospitalizations soon will as well. He cited the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) predictions that came out today to justify loosening of some measures.

Adult Quebecers who choose not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 will soon have to pay a fee if they don’t have a medical exemption preventing them from being vaccinated.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement in an early-afternoon press conference joined by the new Interim National Director of Public Health Dr. Luc Boileau (replacing Dr. Horacio Arruda, who resigned last night) and Health Minister Christian Dubé.

This tax or fee, which Legault described as a “health contribution” will be of a “significant” amount (and Legault doesn’t consider something in the $50-$100 range substantial). According to to the premier:

“All Quebec adults who refuse in the coming weeks to at least get a first dose, will be getting a bill.”

The premier didn’t appear to be concerned about possible legal challenges or opposition to the tax when asked by reporters, arguing instead that the roughly 90% of Quebecers who are vaccinated are “tired” of bearing the brunt for the 10% unvaccinated who make up 50% of those in the hospital with the Omicron COVID variant.

Dr. Horacio Arruda has resigned as Quebec’s National Director of Public Health. While he has held this position since 2012 under governments of different parties, he became a household name in Quebec over the past two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Arruda had become a regular fixture on the government’s COVID briefings alongside Premier François Legault and various other government officials.

A spokesperson for the premier confirmed that Arruda had offered his resignation and Legault has accepted. CTV News reported that they had received the resignation letter and printed some parts of it:

“The recent remarks made on the credibility of our opinions and on our scientific rigor undoubtedly cause a certain erosion in the adhesion of the population…In this context, I consider it appropriate to offer you the possibility of replacing me before the end of my term of office, at least as DNSP…Do not see in this gesture as an abandonment on my part, but rather the offer of an opportunity for you to reassess the situation, after several waves [of the pandemic] and in a context in constant evolution.”

The full letter (in French) has since been shared on Twitter.

The government wouldn’t comment further on the resignation at this time but said they would address it in a press conference tomorrow (Tuesday).

As of tomorrow night, December 31st, aka New Year’s Eve, Quebec will be under a 10pm to 5am curfew. Restaurant dining areas will also close and home gatherings will be banned, except when it comes to caregivers and people who live alone.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement at an early evening press conference joined by National Director of Public Health Dr. Horacio Arruda and Christian Dubé, the Minister of Health and Social Services.

The premier added that places of worship must close, with the exception of funerals which will be limited to 25 people. Stores, including grocery stores, must close for the next three Sundays except for pharmacies, gas stations and dépanneurs.

Legault admitted that the hospitalization rate for the Omicron COVID-19 variant weren’t as high as other variants such as Delta but said that the record-breaking spread means caution necessitates measures like this. He added that the curfew is necessary because “a minority of people” won’t respect the rules and a curfew just for the unvaccinated would be too hard to enforce.

The COVID-19 pandemic is still very much upon us, and with the Omicron variant spreading like wildfire, I think we can all agree that the Christmas holidays are going to suck this year. That said, no one wants to make things worse by getting slapped with a fine for violating public health rules, or thrown in jail for crimes that are painfully common during the season.

As per what’s become a bit of a Forget the Box holiday tradition, I’m here to help. This article is going to give a crash course on the new Quebec COVID-19 rules in effect as of today, as well as other tips for getting through the holidays in one piece. I’m not a doctor, or a psychologist, I’m just a law school grad who likes to research and help others.

First, let’s talk about the Omicron variant and why it’s driving case numbers up. It is a COVID-19 variant discovered in late November 2021. While research on the variant is ongoing, one thing is clear: it’s spreading fast, and is likely to overtake the Delta variant in the 89 countries it has been detected in, Canada-included.

The numbers in Quebec have gone from less than five hundred cases a day to nearly four thousand a day because of Omicron, and as a result the provincial government has imposed new health measures that started yesterday. Here’s a quick summary (the complete English version of the new rules is available for download on the Quebec government’s website):

As of yesterday, December 20, 2021, at 5pm, primary and secondary schools are closed until January 10, 2022 when in-person schooling is expected to resume for primary school students. Secondary schoolers will be doing remote learning when classes resume. Bars, taverns, gyms, movie theatres, spas and concert venues are closed until further notice. Restaurants are only allowed to operate at 50% capacity and limit their hours from 5 am to 10 pm.

As of when this is being written, religious services must operate at 50% capacity, attendees must remain seated and vaccine passports are required. Weddings and funerals can take place with a maximum of 50 people. For funerals those 50 can be on a rolling basis, meaning once 50 people have paid their respects, another 50 can replace them. If the wedding or funeral does not require a vaccine passport of its attendees, the maximum number allowed drops to 25 people.

For gatherings in private homes, be they with family or chosen family, the current legal limit is ten people, but the government said that may change. If the gathering is outdoors, that number increases to 20 people, but the cold weather will likely deter the latter.

Working from home is now required of all non-essential workers including civil servants. Failure to obey these rules can result in massive fines, and maybe even encounters with the police like the ones that went viral last holiday season.

The non-mandatory recommendations by the government include avoiding social contact. This can be especially hard on one’s mental health, as people always feel lonelier over the holidays when ads are promoting the merits of togetherness.

Try keeping the TV or Youtube or a podcast on to break the painful silence, and take the isolation as an opportunity to brush up on a skill, learn a new one, or take up a new solo hobby. Do not hesitate to seek help if you feel yourself slipping under the strain of new rules and the fear of getting sick, despite your attempts to cope.

Seeking help takes immense courage and you’re not weak if you do so. If you’re in a mental health crisis Call 811 and press two to speak to a social worker who can direct you to mental health services in your area or text 686868 to chat anonymously with a crisis worker for free 24/7.

As of today, rapid tests will be available free every 30 days in certain pharmacies throughout Quebec. In order to adhere to government rules regarding the lowered capacity of stores and other businesses, some chains like Jean Coutu are offering the rapid testing kits only by appointment.

One testing kit is good for up to five tests, and you should absolutely get one. The test is sensitive enough to pick up the infection marker of the virus even if you’re asymptomatic, so taking one right before a holiday gathering might be a good idea, but there’s a shortage of tests so use yours wisely.

Don’t bother with mistletoe this year; given the pandemic, that kind of random kissing is just silly.

When it comes to alcohol and cannabis, the chemicals that make family gatherings tolerable for so many, remember that driving while under the influence is a criminal offense that can result in fines and jail time. If intoxicated, crash with your host, accept a lift home, have someone call a taxi or an Uber for you, but if you’re female or female presenting, it is ill advised to ride the latter two alone, given the history of drivers taking advantage of women under the influence.

Last but not least, let’s talk about fireworks. They’re popular to set off on New Year’s Eve, but they are also extremely dangerous. Asian language news channels seldom censor the consequences of mismanaged fireworks, which show footage of protruding hand bones and fingers blown off.

In Montreal, fireworks must be handled by someone over the age of 18, and it is illegal to hold fireworks once the fuse is lit. It is also illegal to set off fireworks in windy conditions or in a location where they’ll fly over an audience; for more information check out of the City of Montreal’s website.

The holidays are once again being ruined by the pandemic, but with a few precautions, we can perhaps make them a little less awful. Stay safe, stay sane, wear a mask, and get vaccinated.

Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël, Feliz Navidad, and Maligayang Pasko!

Featured Image by Joe Buckingham via WikiMedia Commons

September is Suicide Awareness Month and today (September 10th) is World Suicide Prevention Day. Tomorrow, Suicide and Mental Health (SAMH) Montreal will be holding a Suicide and Mental Health Awareness Walk in Montreal.

It starts at 1pm in front of the Sir George-Etienne Cartier Monument on du Parc (where the tam tams take place). It also serves as a reminder that suicide is one of the top ten causes of death in Canada and takes more lives than war, murder and natural disasters combined.

SAMH Montreal “is a non profit organization dedicated to helping people find support through difficult times and hope after loss.” They also hope to help stop that loss from happening in the first place by raising awareness through events like this one.

With the general focus being on physical health over the past couple of years, it’s important not to forget mental health.

Featured Image via the SAMH Montreal website

The Suicide and Mental Health Awareness Walk starts Saturday, September 11 at 1pm in front of the Sir. George-Etienne Cartier Monument on du Parc. More info on the Facebook Event Page

It’s official. Quebecers who want to use certain services or take part in certain activities deemed “non-essential” need to present proof of being adequately vaccinated against COVID-19 to do so. Quebec is the first Canadian province to implement a COVID vaccine passport, but with Ontario, BC and Manitoba working on their own systems, it won’t be the last.

People will also need to present ID along with the passport.

Where Do You Need the Quebec Vaccine Passport?

There is a rather extensive list of where vaccine passports are now required on the Quebec Government’s website. Here are just some of the places and activities:

  • Restaurants (including fast food and on terrasses)
  • Bars (including on terrasses)
  • Nightclubs
  • Shopping mall food courts
  • Performance venues
  • Movie theatres
  • Indoor sports
  • Outdoor sports with close contact
  • Outdoor concerts, sporting events, shows and other events with over 50 people in attendance
  • Festivals
  • Indoor weight lifting, swimming and gymnastics (ie. going to the gym)

There are some exemptions, for example, homeless people who want to eat at shopping mall food courts.

How Do You Get the Quebec Vaccine Passport?

Android users (as of yesterday) and iPhone users can download the “VaxiCode” app from either the Google Play Store or the App Store. Make sure to include the quotation marks when searching for it as it is a rather new app.

Once installed on your phone, you can either scan the QR code you were sent after your second vaccine shot or enter information and have the app locate your vax info. You’ll need to enter your name, date of birth, Medicare card number, mother’s maiden name, father’s name, postal code and the date of your first vax shot along with its brand.

Once the info is located and successfully added, you’ll be able to open up the app, click on your name and display the new QR code generated, along with your ID, to staff at the restaurant you wish to sit down at, or wherever else you want to go. You can also forgo using a phone and print a paper copy of your QR code (business card size is recommended, as is getting it laminated).

Yesterday, Montreal, Laval, and the remaining Red Zones in Quebec turned Orange. Today, Quebec Premier François Legault announced that as of next Monday (June 14th), all of Quebec’s Orange Zones will become Yellow Zones.

The Premier made the announcement at an early afternoon press conference joined by Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services, and National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda. He added that the one region of concern that may not turn Yellow is Chaudière-Appalaches.

So what does being in a Yellow Zone mean? Well:

  • Indoor home visits are permitted for maximum two households
  • Outdoor home visits (backyards and balconies) are permitted for a maximum of eight people
  • Bars can re-open until midnight at 50% capacity with customers remaining seated, no more than two households per table (as well as other restrictions). Bar terrasses are already scheduled to re-open province-wide this Friday
  • Indoor recreation is permitted with certain restrictions
  • Travel between regions and cities is not recommended, but permitted

A full list of what being in a Yellow Zone means, including rules for auditoriums, funerals and places of worship as well as more detailed bar and recreation rules can be found on Quebec’s COVID-19 website.

The next stage down and the best stage to be at (aside from “pandemic over”) is the Green Zone, a status currently only enjoyed by Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Côte-Nord, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine and Nord-du-Québec. As it may be in everyone else’s future, here’s what it means:

  • Indoor and outdoor (backyards and balconies) home visits are permitted for a maximum of ten people from different addresses or the occupants of three households
  • Bars are open with a maximum of three residences or ten people sharing the same table. The other restrictions are the same as in Yellow Zones
  • Travel between regions and cities is possible

A full list of what being in a Green Zone means is available on Quebec’s COVID-19 website.

Legault also said that students graduating can have their proms, albeit outside and for a maximum of 250 people.

Quebecers now only have to wait eight weeks between their first and second COVID-19 vaccine shot. This is down from the previous 16 week interval.

Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services, made the announcement at a press conference alongside National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda and vaccination campaign director Daniel Paré. They also released the schedule of when people, by age group, can reschedule their second dose:

  • June 7: 80 years old and up
  • June 8: 75 years old and up
  • June 9: 70 years old and up
  • June 10: 65 years old and up
  • June 11: 60 years old and up
  • June 14: 55 years old and up
  • June 15: 50 years old and up
  • June 16: 45 years old and up
  • June 17: 40 years old and up
  • June 18: 35 years old and up
  • June 21: 30 years old and up
  • June 22: 25 years old and up
  • June 23: 18 years old and up

To schedule your second shot, visit the Clic Santé website on the appropriate day. The original second appointment date, which was given to everyone after they got their first dose, will be cancelled when the new date has been selected.

Quebec’s curfew will be lifted in all regions next Friday, May 28th. Restaurant terrasses will also be allowed to re-open, home backyard visits of up to eight people will be permitted along with travel between regions and stadiums can receive up to 2500 people, all as of that date.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement in a late afternoon press conference joined by Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services, and National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda. He said that this was the first in four major steps of deconfinement affecting the province as a whole, regardless of region.

The second step will be allowing bar terrasses to re-open on June 11. The third will be on June 25th when people who have received both of their vaccine doses will be permitted to visit other people’s homes indoors without masks or social distancing and festivals can occur, regardless of if they have assigned seating or not. The fourth step will be the end of August when most indoor mask mandates will be lifted.

Region-Specific Deconfinement

The premier also announced a series of expected regional coding switches:

  • Most regions will remain or become Orange Zones on May 31st. This means restaurants can re-open for indoor dining.
  • Most regions will remain or become Yellow Zones by June 14th the latest. This means bars can re-open and people can visit other people’s homes.
  • Most regions will become Green Zones by June 28th. This means up to ten people coming from three residences can gather in homes.

Legault also said that Elementary and High Schools in most regions will re-open (or stay open) for in-person classes this coming Monday, May 24th. CEGEPs and universities are expected to re-open for in-person classes as part of the late August deconfinement.

Deconfinement Follows Vaccinations

These measures are closely tied to Quebec’s vaccination rollout, which Legault says is going better than expected. The government had originally predicted that 75% of the population will have received their first vaccine shot by June 24th, now Legault expects to hit that milestone by June 15th.

75% of the population are expected to have received both vaccine doses by the end of August, which is when most confinement measures are scheduled to be lifted.

Special Guest Samantha Gold talks about getting vaccinated against COVID-19 in Quebec, Premier François Legault’s comments on Montreal rental prices and more with host Jason C. McLean

Follow Samantha Gold on Facebook @samiamart & Instagram @samiamartistmtl

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter @jasoncmclean

Book your Quebec vaccine appointment through Clic Santé according to the schedule

All adult Quebecers who want the COVID-19 vaccine will be able to sign up for their first shot in the next two weeks. Starting tomorrow, those aged 50-59 can sign up, with a new age group added to the list every two or three days.

Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé made the announcement at an afternoon press conference joined by National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda and Daniel Paré, director of the COVID Vaccination Campaign.

The rollout is as follows:

  • April 30: Age 50-59
  • May 3: Age 45-49
  • May 5: Age 40-44
  • May 7: Age 35-39
  • May 10: Age 30-34
  • May 12: Age 25-29
  • May 14: Age 18-24

Most of these people will receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine, though some of it could be from Moderna or Johnson & Johnson (which only requires one dose). This is separate from when Quebec made their remaining AstraZeneca vaccine shots available to people aged 45 and up last week. That campaign is still ongoing and clearly identified as separate on the government’s website.

You can make an appointment for your COVID-19 vaccine shot when it becomes available to your age group through the Clic Santé website

Quebec’s COVID-19 vaccination program is in full swing, but today it hit what could end up being a setback. Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé announced today that the province is temporarily halting its administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine known as Covishield to people under 55 years old.

This decision follows a small number of cases in Europe where the vaccine was linked to blood clotting in women under 55. While no such cases have been reported in Canada, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended the temporary suspension so more studies can be done.

Quebec and Manitoba have adopted this policy, with potentially more provinces to follow suit. PEI is stopping use of the vaccine for people aged 18-29.

Currently, Quebec is only vaccinating members of the general public over 60 years of age. The government won’t say how many of the 111 000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine it has already administered went to people younger than 55 (healthcare workers, etc.).

While admitting that some appointments may have to be cancelled, Dubé said that Quebec is still on track to have everyone who wants a vaccine be able to get one by June 24th. In addition to AstraZeneca, Quebec is also administering doses of the Modern and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines.

Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Dawn McSweeney go through some of the big Quebec and Montreal news stories:

Quebec and Canada’s ban on flavoured vapes are coming into effect. What will this mean for local business?

Quebec high schools students are back, religious services can have up to 200 people, but there is still a curfew and a ban on home visits. Does this make any sense?

There was a protest against Shiller Lavy’s practices in Mile End that was also a book sale. Dawn was there.

& More!

Dawn Mc Sweeney is an author and FTB contributor, follow her on Twitter @mcmoxy

Jason C. McLean is the Editor-in-Chief of ForgetTheBox.net, follow him on Twitter @jasoncmclean

Quebec is now officially under an 8pm to 5am curfew which began Saturday night and is scheduled to last for four weeks. This is the first time there has been a curfew here since the October Crisis of 1970.

While previous and current measures implemented by Premier François Legault’s government to slow the spread of COVID-19 have been about restricting what we can do (selected business closures and bans on gatherings) or hygiene (masks and hand sanitizers), this one is different. It’s not about what we can do, but when we can do it.

First, it’s important to stress that COVID-19 is a very real threat and Quebec’s numbers are the highest they have been since the start of the pandemic. Any measures that will significantly drop the spread of COVID are worth implementing. Full stop.

That said, will this new strategy work? I honestly don’t know, but I don’t think Legault does either.

Unlike the premier, or at least unlike what he says publicly, I have my doubts as to the effectiveness of fighting a virus that spreads at any hour, day or night, by restricting the specific hours we can be outside of our homes.

I wonder if it could end up having an opposite effect to what is intended. Well, let’s start with a hypothetical, though very plausible scenario…

For Your Consideration

Let’s say there are 100 people who all live in the same area and go for a walk each day. 70 of them take their walks during the daytime, while the other 30 prefer a quieter walk at night.

Now impose an 8pm to 5am curfew.

The 30 people who walked at night and want to keep active now have to take their strolls during the daytime to avoid breaking curfew and getting fined. The other 70, meanwhile, continue their daytime walks.

So, instead of 70 people out during one period of time and 30 during another, we now have 100 people on the streets of the same area in the same period of time. We now have crowded sidewalks where social distancing is more difficult.

Likewise, night time grocery shoppers in the same area now have to get their shopping done before 8pm alongside the daytime shoppers. There will be more people in the stores at the same time and when the store hits its limit of patrons, lines will form outside, creating additional obstacles for the increased number of people going for a walk.

Grocery store and depanneur employees will be exposed to more people seeing as the stores will have the same number of customers, but these will now be spread out over fewer shifts. Also, many of these employees will pack public transit at the same time to get home before curfew.

So, in this scenario, the risk of COVID-19 transmission actually increases, albeit minimally, even if everyone is wearing masks and trying to socially distance as much as possible.

Quebec’s Director of Public Health Dr. Horacio Arruda made the same argument I just did a lit quicker when asked about curfews in the March 16, 2020 presser (this video should start at the right spot, but if it doesn’t, skip ahead to 14:32):

A Very Real Problem For The Homeless

Meanwhile, Quebec’s homeless population faces a situation that is very much not hypothetical, nor is it just an inconvenience. Fining or even harassing someone who can’t afford a place to live for being outside past curfew is just plain cruel and appalling.

Legault’s claim that there “is enough room available” in shelters is out of touch at best and willfully ignorant at worst. The situation wasn’t great before the pandemic began and while shelters have been able to find some additional space in old hospitals, social distancing requirements offset quite a bit of that.

Also, there have been COVID outbreaks in shelters, prompting many this past summer to set up tents instead of taking the risk.

A petition demanding that homeless people be exempt from curfew enforcement and fines already has over 6500 signatures.

More Than An Inconvenience

When it comes to people who have homes, yes, for some, like me, the curfew is a mild inconvenience. Well, in my case it’s a mild inconvenience mixed with a bit of existential dread.

I have a roof over my head, set my own schedule and have access to friends and family via the internet. I don’t need to go for a walk or the dep after 8pm, but the fact that I am not allowed to scares me.

Others aren’t so fortunate:

  • People who work a standard 9-5 or 10-6 shift from home now have limited hours for exercise, grocery shopping or even a bit of fresh air.
  • People from visible minority communities who work at night and are legitimately heading home or to work may be disproportionately stopped and harassed by police who now have wild discretionary powers to enforce the curfew (and without the potential of a citizen journalist passing by and filming the encounter).
  • People in domestic abuse situations who minimize the risks by going for long walks at night when the abusive partner is home no longer can.
  • People who, for their own mental stability, just need to get out of the house at night (for whatever reason).

What the Government Actually Wants

One thing that became clear in the press conference announcing the curfew and in subsequent pressers by government officials is that people going for strolls or buying groceries at night as well as the homeless are just collateral damage. Their real target is people visiting friends or family at home in small gatherings that bend or slightly break the rules.

The government admitted that they didn’t see that many large parties (those get reported and shut down anyways), but knew there were many small gatherings (which are harder to track). A curfew may eliminate some of those, but the rest will just move to the daytime or have their friends stay over or catch the first metro home once the curfew lifts at 5am.

The curfew will also put an end to people gathering outdoors in parks at night. Now, if this was the summer, that would have a measurable impact, but it’s not. It’s frickin’ January in Montreal!

Sure, there may have been some people out there previously risking hypothermia along with COVID who now won’t be able to. So add them to the people who decide not to crash at their friends’ places or gather earlier.

Is that enough reduction in potential transmission to offset the potential increase by having everyone go for walks, buy groceries and take public transit at the same time? Best case scenario, (that I can see) yes, but not by much. Worst case: COVID numbers actually continue to rise more.

Curfew Success Stories

It’s true that curfews have been part of successful COVID fighting packages of measures. The key word here is packages.

In Italy, they went from nothing except maybe wash your hands more to a full-on lockdown that included a curfew. Yes, that worked, but going from nothing to everything doesn’t prove that one part of the everything, the curfew, solved the problem.

In Melbourne, they imposed a curfew along with several other measures. As a great editorial in The Gazette points out, though, their success wouldn’t have been possible without serious restrictions on the manufacturing sector, including meat packing plants, something Legault hasn’t done.

He isn’t even keeping the schools closed (there’s even a petition now to implement more safety measures in schools) or halting construction. It’s akin to fighting climate change by banning plastic bags and straws without doing anything to curb the giant corporate polluters.

Shock and Not Much Else

In the press conference, Legault and his colleagues referred to their move as “shock therapy” and shock is just what we have seen since the curfew took effect. Images of deserted Montreal streets and highways from Saturday night coupled with stories of large fines for people being outside their homes after 8pm filled our newsfeeds Sunday morning.

Given that last time we had a curfew here, it was for a terrorist threat, having one now, 50 years later, is most definitely a shock to the system.

Yes, it may shock some of the people visiting friends to stay home. It may also shock people like me, who have been following the rules and doing our best to fight the virus, while at the same time trying to retain some semblance of normalcy by not thinking about COVID 24/7, into being more perma-disturbed.

But the question remains: Will it shock the spread of COVID-19 so we also get the awe of the numbers going down significantly? Or is this just a bit of performative paternalistic pandemic management that will do much more harm than good?

While I hope it’s the former, I feel like it may be the latter.

Legault Knows Best?

While Legault’s initial reaction to the pandemic was swift and in line with nothing but the facts, it seems like since the fall, his government’s approach has been guided by a different principle: Protect the 9-5 economy as much as possible, it’s social gatherings that are to blame!

Now while the virus most definitely can spread when people from different households have dinner and drinks at home, it also can spread at school or in a manufacturing plant. For Legault, though, work is important, socialization with those you don’t live with isn’t.

It’s beyond capitalism, it’s the preservation of whatever the Quebec version of Norman Rockwell is at all costs. It even took a numbers spike too big to ignore to get them to cancel Christmas gatherings.

When the numbers kept going up, rather than re-think their strategy, Legault and his government decided to ignore other options like keeping schools closed or restricting manufacturing and construction and double-down on it. Instead of admitting their approach was wrong, they’re going to implement extreme measures to force it to be right.

It seems like the curfew is a strategy to prove Papa Legault knows best regardless of the consequences rather than one to effectively stop the spread of COVID-19.

For all our sakes, I hope I’m wrong.