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

On Thursday night, I was riding the metro home from a vernissage in the Plateau. I got on the Orange Line at Sherbrooke with a plan to get off at Villa Maria and take the bus from there.

I was reading a book as I tend to do on public transit, riding what felt like an ordinary metro ride. In between Vendome and Villa Maria I noticed two white male STM security members walking purposefully toward someone. I turn and see a young black man holding a pink soccer ball near the accordion section connecting the metro car I was on with the next.

I saw the two men question the third aggressively. My heart pumping, I debated whether to say something or intervene.

I ultimately decided that it was none of my business but as I got off the train, that quickly changed. I’d only taken a few steps when I heard a scuffle.

I turned around and saw the two STM security guards slamming the man into the concrete wall of Villa Maria metro’s Cote Vertu direction platform. I was not person who took the video you may have already seen, Nzo Hodges deserves credit for that, but I was right behind him when it all happened:

I later heard reports from the STM that the young man was resisting, but what I saw was him trying to protect his head and face and escape from two men hitting and tackling him.

He tried to get away, but a grip on his leg pulled the guy back down. I saw the man on his back, his head close to the tracks, palms up in surrender, asking the STM cops to stop hitting him, that it was hurting him, as the two men stood over him, batons menacingly raised.

The guy was clearly surrendering, yet one of the STM cops still thought it necessary to whack him in the legs with his baton. When the next train came, the young man used the distraction it caused to make a break for it, and I was relieved for him, but I was also scared.

As I made my way up the escalator, I saw two white female STM guards running up it, presumably to assist their colleagues. I worried for the man because it’s been so cold the past few days, and he’d lost his coat in the shuffle.

I heard that he was causing a disturbance, but I didn’t notice him on the metro until he was approached by the two STM security guards. I heard he was blocking the passageway, but there were other riders doing so who were not questioned or reprimanded by STM security that night.

From the body language of the latter, it felt like they were looking for a fight. I’m no expert on law enforcement, but I know that people who are allegedly trained to keep the peace have a responsibility to keep a situation from escalating to violence. I saw no attempt by the two STM officers to do so.

If the young man had truly done something wrong, they could have written him a ticket, issued him a fine, and let him go. Instead they chose violence, and for that they should be held accountable, which is why I’ve come forward about what I saw. If it gets the victim justice, it was worth it.

The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) will investigate allegations that the Montreal Police (SPVM) Internal Affairs division falsified evidence and reports in an effort to discredit officers who tried to blow the whistle on their corrupt peers. Neither the opposition parties nor the Montreal Police Brotherhood are satisfied with this solution.

Earlier this week, three ex-policemen came forward on TVA’s investigative journalism show J.E, accusing the SPVM of fabricating evidence against them after they tried to denounce malpractice and corruption within the service. The reporters uncovered evidence that the internal affairs investigations on ex-officers Roger Larivière, Giovanni Di Feo and Jimmy Cacchione were launched under false pretenses and based on fabricated evidence.

It is not the first scandal sparked by the SPVM’s endeavour to keep its dirty laundry from being aired in public. Only a few months ago we learned that they had no qualms about spying on journalists to uncover their confidential sources.

J.E’s findings were convincing enough that SPVM Director Paul Pichet claims he pressed the SQ to investigate them immediately after the show aired on Tuesday night. The SQ confirmed on Wednesday that a special team will be mandated to review the three cases, including past investigations and new elements.

Suspicious timing and non-existent godsons

In June 2013, Giovanni Di Feo and Jimmy Cacchione informed their superiors that they intended to write a letter to the Ministry and the media to denounce corruption and dishonest practices within the SPVM. Their long careers were brought to an abrupt end shortly after that, when an internal affair investigation turned up various charges against them, from complaints about their disrespect to superiors to suspicious connections with organized crime.

Both were two highly ranked officers of Italian origin who had served as double agents in the mafia and the Hells Angels. “For 28 years, we’ve been highly regarded for the quality of our sources, but then they became «suspicious connections»” says Cacchione.

In 2012, Di Feo and Cacchione had started pressing SPVM administration to address cases of “recurrent corruption that have lasted for several years.” Unbeknown to them, they were put under investigation instead.

The RCMP recorded multiple phone conversations that suggested suspicious friendliness between Di Feo and Luigi Coretti, a businessman accused of criminal fraud (charges were dropped due to exaggerated delays in procedures). Di Feo reportedly offered to pick up Coretti’s son from school several times. The SPVM even suggested that Di Feo might be the godfather of the child.

Coretti doesn’t even have children.

Di Feo and Cacchione’s case seems to be one of many. Ex SPVM inspector Roger Larivière told Radio-Canada on Wednesday: “the division of special investigations in SPVM are doing phony investigations. That is to say investigations that are directed by the headquarters, in order to target some individuals, like I’ve been targeted.”

In October 2014, Larivière tried to blow the whistle on internal affairs’ questionable practices. He wrote a letter to the SPVM then director Marc Parent and met with journalist Stéphane Berthomet. He was promptly investigated for leaking confidential information to the press. He was put under surveillance and his residence was searched – illegally, perhaps, as the Chief Inspector of Internal Affairs, Costa Labos was suspected of, although not charged with, lying to the judge in order to get the search warrant.

On Wednesday, a fourth ex-officer from Montreal brought a similar story to the Journal de Montréal. Ex-inspector Pietro Poletti claims that internal affairs destroyed his career with a falsified report.

SQ investigation raises controversy

SPVM Director Paul Pichet mandated the SQ to investigate. Premier Philippe Couillard and Minister of Security Martin Coîteux are both satisfied with this outcome, but the three opposition parties are rejecting the police-investigating-police route. They are unanimously calling for the Bureau des Enquêtes Indépendantes to handle the investigation.

In an interview with Radio-Canada, Pichet said that the situation was more aligned with the SQ’s mandate than with the BEI’s. “Honestly I think [the SQ] is well equipped and they have experienced investigators to do the job,” he claimed. He added that if, for whatever reason, the investigation was to be handled by the BEI or any other such institution, he would readily cooperate and do what he could “to shed some light on this.” Pichet insisted that it was important to preserve the trust of the people and of the 4600 SPVM officers in the Internal Affairs division.

For the Fraternité des Policiers et Policières de Montréal (the union representing SPVM officers), the director still has a very long way to go before they can talk about trust.  The reopening of three cases by the SQ will not suffice to correct the course, the union warned in a press release. They are calling for the immediate resignation of the Chief Inspector of Internal Affairs and for the Ministry of Security’s direct intervention to correct the practices of the division.

* Featured image by Cem Ertekin

Looks like the Sûreté du Québec (SQ)’s union have a new strategy for dealing with the allegations of systemic police abuse against aboriginal women: sue the ones who made them.

Seven months after Radio-Canada (French CBC)’s program Enquête aired shocking testimonies of aboriginal women describing widespread abuse of SQ officers in Val d’Or, charges could finally be filed…against Radio Canada. The Journal de Montréal is reporting that The Association des policiers et policières provinciaux du Québec (APPQ) voted in favour of suing the national broadcaster during a congress held last week.

APPQ Communication officer Laurent Arel denied that the mandate specifically targets Radio Canada. According to him, the members voted “for the association to give itself the means of defending the rights of its members,” but FTB is still awaiting specifications about what those means could entail and what rights did Radio Canada threaten. Arel didn’t confirm nor deny that a lawsuit is on the table.

Growing Evidence and Lack of Police Progress

Politicians and the public called for an inquiry following Enquête’s bombshell report. Eight SQ officers were suspended and Montreal’s police force (SPVM) was chosen as “an independent entity” to investigate the allegations.

Since the original report aired, Enquête received a growing numbers of alarming new testimonies from aboriginal women all across the province, allowing them to do a follow-up report in March. Despite this, the SPVM has yet to pursue any criminal charges.

Some will argue that lack of SPVM action proves how unreliable Enquête’s findings are, which incidentally provides grounds for a defamation lawsuit.  But such an argument would have to ignore how often this is the unsurprising outcome of police investigating police actions.

The SQ union initially and fervently opposed the opening of any public inquiry, arguing instead that body cameras and electric Tasers were the only changes they needed to implement to improve their relations with aboriginal communities. Now that they may be suing Radio-Canada, we’re left with a heavy question: are they more interested in preventing these stories from getting out or preventing their officers from abusing native women?

Buffalo Police Officer and veteran Richard Hy has been suspended without pay for posting videos on the internet while in uniform (even if it was not his official uniform). He can be suspended unpaid for up to 30 days.

It’s silly that this man is even on our radar. There is a Buffalo Police Officer who recently overdosed on heroin, a little more news worthy than a social media blow out.

Hy posts comedic videos on the social app Vine under the alias Angry Cops. He shows himself taking cocaine from the evidence locker with powder on his face (the image that I recreated for this article), pretends to shoot someone, jokes about prison rape or people overdosing on drugs while showing needles outside of the courthouse, sings songs about being on duty, and more. I was instantly inspired to parody this yo yo on stage.

buffalo cop Richard Hy

He was warned, kept on creating videos, and is now facing the consequences. Even if you think his videos are funny you have to put your palm to face in honor of his blatant ignorance.

“Bad cop, no donut” is a bumper sticker that seems appropriate right now. Officer Richard Hy responded online with “I guess cops can’t be funny or have a life outside of being emotionless robots.”

Many of the more incriminating Vines, including the one about cocaine, have been removed from his account, you can see them in this video from WIBV News. There is an outcry in the comments from both supporters (someone even started a go fund me for him while he is suspended) and people who are calling him a criminal for this.

Badges don’t (donut) grant extra rights, right? To serve and protect, bro, that’s whats up. Police officers have a responsibility to respect and help everyday people who are “abiding by the laws”. These people in uniform are just that, people, flesh and blood, they have feelings, families, stories, and souls (I would hope). Yes, their lives matter too.

We are not yet run by machines, just humans with guns and egos. These humans make mistakes just like anyone else, excessive use of force and abuse of “power” are too common in our society.

Everyone has watched the re-runs of COPS: power hungry officers tazing drunk people and small time crooks, getting snakes out of attics, breaking up domestic train wrecks, rounding up hookers in cube vans, lots of drug possession, people hiding in the strangest places, dogs biting, guns drawn, reading the rights, a few car chases, sweaty running scenes, and maybe some comedic effect, even if its unintentional. Manly mustached men with beer bellies and very serious lesbian cops swinging their billy clubs in the name of what’s right.

Some police officers want to humanize the force and make people realize that cops are just people too, break down stereotypes. There is even a website called where cops want to connect more to the public. I want officers to speak their minds and connect to people in other more meaningful ways.

Why don’t they get into the community when things are good and not only when crime is happening? We should love our “protectors” and not fear them. There doesn’t need to be a stern, mean imagine. Police officers need to learn how to be a little bit more lovable. Plant some trees, feed people, get involved in the communities they serve.

Know who your audience is, social media doesn’t go away. Posting goofy videos on the internet is not going to make me feel more connected to the police force. I am not offended or amused, mostly annoyed because there are bigger issues to talk about.

It makes sense to me, everyone is so obsessed with social media and fame that they don’t realize what an impact it has on the real world. It is a way for people to connect. But acting like you shot someone for being out of vacation days is disconcerting or dehumanizing someone with a drug addiction by mocking them. That is not positive.

Of course I believe in freedom of speech and do not agree with censorship. However certain positions require a little bit more tact and adulting. Being a police officer is serious business, lives are in your hands. I want you to have fun and laugh, but you need to respect your job and the people you serve.

There has to be a better way for officers to release negative energy. Suicide and drug use are common among police officers, they see and deal with some crazy and horrible stuff on a daily basis. Dark humor happens in all serious professions, just most people don’t post for the world to see.

Nobody follows every rule at work, we all have the right to joke around sometimes, but not all of us are cops. The fantasy sexy cop is way further from impersonating an officer than actually impersonating Richard Hy.

cocaine is one hell of a drug

I literally copied a screen shot of this man and did makeup to look like him. The sexy cop is a costume just as the stern professional cop is not real, Richard Hy is a real cop putting on costumes and being a dork. I obviously approve of Vines, but don’t ever mock someone for overdosing on drugs or joke about real world things while on my dime, be a role model or be a fucking comedian.

The publicity is causing a spike in views on his videos. Hell I even watched them. Richard Hy should just retire and become a internet sensation, welcome to virility officer, bask in your remaining 13 minutes of fame. He makes fun of himself and comments on society in general.

There are officers who commit much bigger offenses, like um, well how about shooting innocent children, using excessive force with the homeless or disabled, bashing down a protester, breaking down a door with no warrant and terrorizing a family, or just plain being an asshole while giving you a speeding ticket.

Quebec police forces have come under fire recently in light of the crisis brewing in Val D’Or. Sûreté du Québec officers have been accused of harassing native women in the area for over a decade, engaging in such heinous behaviors as beatings and sexual assault and harassment.

Not surprisingly, the native communities in the area have had enough and are now demanding that their abusers be held accountable for their actions. The magnitude of the crisis and its ensuing strain on First Nations’ and Government officials has been so great that Quebec Public Safety Minister Lise Thériault has taken a leave of absence for health reasons.

The First Nations are fed up with being abused by the police and they are demanding a public inquiry, detailed investigations into the deaths of aboriginal women, and most importantly given the circumstances, the removal of the eight officers under investigation for these allegations, at least until a conclusion is reached regarding their guilt or innocence. These officers are still currently working in the area.

The demands of the Native leaders look like reasonable ways of reducing racial profiling and protecting the most vulnerable people in Val D’Or. However, holding officers accountable in Quebec is extremely difficult.

In Quebec, police forces are regulated under the Police Act (the Act) and the Code of Ethics of Quebec Police Officers (the Code).

Police officers have to obey the law like everyone else. The problem arises with what happens if they do something they shouldn’t when acting as a police officer.

The Code dictates that officers must act in such a way that preserves “the confidence and consideration” required by their duties and cannot use abusive language, be disrespectful or impolite, and more importantly they can’t “commit acts or use injurious language based on race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, religion, political convictions, language, age, social condition, civil status, pregnancy, ethnic or national origin, a handicap or a means to compensate for a handicap” (article 5). They can’t use greater force than necessary to perform their duties of maintaining peace and public security, nor can they harass, intimidate, threaten, or bring unfounded charges against anyone, things Quebec police forces have been accused of for decades.

How are complaints against police handled?

Quebec’s Police Ethics Commissioner is chosen from among members of the Quebec Bar Association and answers to the Provincial Government. The rules for lodging and handling complaints are suspicious at best and seem to be geared towards protecting officers, not victims. Some of these questionable rules and practices include:

  • Referring the complaint to an “appropriate police force” for the purposes of a criminal investigation if a crime might have been committed.
  • Complaints regarding police ethics expire one year after the date of the event or knowledge of the event that resulted in the complaint.
  • The complainant and the police officer or officers involved in the complaint must participate and be present at conciliation proceedings. The conciliator is designated by the Commissioner.
  • Once a solution is found and both the complainant and the police officer(s) involved sign the settlement, the complaint is deemed withdrawn and will never appear in the personal record of the officer(s) involved.
  • Quebec’s Police Ethics Commissioner can decide not to investigate a complaint if he or she decides the complaint “frivolous, vexatious or made in bad faith” or if he or she decides no further investigation is necessary.
  • At the end of an investigation into a complaint, the Commissioner can choose to dismiss the complaint for being frivolous, vexatious, has no foundation in law, or due to lack of evidence. The Commissioner can also decide at the end of an investigation whether or not to report an officer to the Police Ethics Committee for discipline, and whether or not to refer the case to the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions.

If you were wronged by a police officer it’s only natural that the organization he works for is going to do its best to protect him. That’s why referring a complaint to a police force looks like a perfect way to create bias in favor of the officer(s).

There is currently no independent force working to investigate complaints regarding criminal acts committed by police officers. Though an independent bureau was created last year and the government has even named its director, the bureau isn’t operating yet and the Commissioner has an awful lot of discretion whether or not to investigate or even accept a complaint. Too much unchecked discretion has historically proven to be a bad thing.

The one year expiration date of the right to lodge a complaint is extremely problematic given that the victims of crimes like sexual assault have difficulty coming forward due to the stigma involved. It’s especially problematic given that proceedings require the presence of both parties. Anyone who’s been sexually assaulted knows how difficult it is to face your attacker.

The fact that a settlement will result in the complaint being removed from the officer’s personal record seems like too much of a free pass for the offender. The fact that a settlement is reached in a given situation doesn’t mean that a complaint was unfounded and should be withdrawn. It often just means that the victim doesn’t want any more trouble. A more sensible rule would be to let the severity of the act determine how long the complaint stays in an officer’s file.

Until the rules are changed to reflect a more common sense approach to how the police are policed, Canada’s most vulnerable people will have to watch their backs. If they have to watch their backs to prevent abuse from the very people sworn to protect them, we seriously need to rethink how we train our police forces, and actually hold them to their obligation to act in an ethical way thus ensuring the confidence of the people they serve.

“Enough is enough” was the message of the silent demonstration on June 8th. More than 30 demonstrators met in front of the SPVM headquarters in Downtown Montreal to express their frustration with police violence and brutality. Among the participants were people who had been brutalized by the police – one still had his arm in a cast.

Initially, the group met on the sidewalk in front of the Montreal Maison Symphonique. Twenty or so minutes after 6 p.m. officers from across the street came by and announced that they would respect the “protestors’ right to demonstrate,” but they would not “tolerate any criminal activity or the obstruction of traffic.”

Afterwards,  the demonstrators voted to move across the street and sit directly in front of SPVM’s doors; where a dozen or so officers were blocking entrance. Silently and peacefully, the protestors sat down right in front of the officers – for almost four hours.

Check out our report below to hear more about and from the protest. In addition, you can see photos from the event, as well.

Yesterday was International Workers’ Day – not in Canada though, at least officially speaking. Thousands of people took to the streets yesterday to mark the beginning of the grève sociale against the austerity measures of the provincial government.

Called to action by the Coalition opposée à la tarification et à la privatisation des services publics, more than 860 community organizations, student associations, and unions across Quebec went on strike yesterday. Among those who went on strike were many of the twenty four CEGEP teacher unions, whose strike mandates had been declared illegal by Quebec’s labour board on April 30.

In Montreal, the day of action started early. At 8 a.m., demonstrators associated with the Coalition blocked access to the Banque Nationale tower. This was followed by a large march of estimated 5000 people. Other forms of direct action included the occupation of Québécor, World Trade Centre, and Place Ville-Marie.

However, the brutality of the SPVM did not show itself until later in the evening. Montreal’s Anti-Capitalist Convergence (CLAC) called on people to gather at Phillips Square at 6:30 p.m. Contingents from north, east, and south-west Montreal joined the main contingent at the square and they started marching at around 7 p.m. In less than 20 minutes, SPVM declared the demonstration illegal and started deploying unreasonable amounts of tear gas, injuring protesters and passers-by alike. CBC reported that even children were caught in the middle of the SPVM and the SQ’s clamping down.

According to photographer Gerry Lauzon, “The riot squad charged and gassed while the protest was peacefully walking, nothing being broken. A lot of civilians were present as non-participants in the vicinity and got gassed as well. Women (one pregnant in the bunch) and children among them. The gas made it’s way in some stores and the metro while people were trying to flee the chaos.”

“I was flushed eastbound on Ste-Catherine by the Surété Quebec and didn’t see much of anything after that until 21:15, when the pissed off crowd that was walking down Ste-Catherine got dispersed at Berri without gas, baton, or shields.”

In an interview with Radio-Canada, SPVM spokesperson Laurent Gingras failed to give an explanation as to why the dispersion maneuver took place. At the end of the day, 84 people were arrested.

In a press release, CLAC declared that they would not be repressed without a fight and that “It’s obvious that the escalation of repression we’ve seen in the last few years is the result of a political directive to nip all protest movements with a radical discourse in the bud.”

Rich Bonemeal, spokesperson for the CLAC says, “We can’t see the forest for the tree that is austerity. Sooner or later we’ll have to face the fact that it’s the capitalist system itself that’s at the root of this inequality and injustice. As long as this system stays in place, there will still be exploiters and exploited, there will still be the extremely rich and the extremely poor, and the capitalist bulldozer will continue to pillage and destroy everything in its way until life on earth becomes impossible. Fighting austerity is a start, but it’s capitalism we must destroy.”

Click on the images below to access the galleries. The one above contains photos from earlier in the day, and the one below contains photos from the 6:30 p.m. demo. All photography by Gerry Lauzon.

Morning ProtestsMorning Protests

International Workers\' DayInternational Workers\' Day

On April 12, 25-year-old Freddie Gray “made eye contact” with a Baltimore police officer. Within minutes, Gray was brutalized, “twisted into a pretzel,“which caused his spinal cord to snap, and was subsequently tossed into the back of a police cage. Despite screaming in pain, the police denied Gray medical attention. He lapsed into a coma and died one week later on April 19.

Freddie Gray would’ve been just another statistic of one more Black male “criminal” that died a justifiable, though “tragic” and “unfortunate” death at the hands of hard working cops because he “resisted arrest,” “disobeyed the commands of law enforcement” or had “reached for the officer’s weapon.” However, in the Information Age of social media, a bystander filmed the event and, once again, the official story collapsed and the lies of the police were exposed.

Anger among the majority Black and working class population of Baltimore erupted over the past week culminating in mass protests over the weekend which led to rioting on Monday, April 27. What began as peaceful processions from West Baltimore where Freddie Gray lived and was killed, turned into conflict once the procession reached Downtown. At Camden Yards before the start of the Baltimore Orioles game on Sunday, fights erupted when Black protesters were provoked by petite-bourgeois whites from suburban Baltimore County, who jeered the mostly Black protesters with racial epithets. As the marchers made their way to Baltimore’s famed Inner Harbor, white hipsters and shoppers began to physically attack the the marchers. In the face of these provocations, Blacks reacted by throwing objects through the windows of restaurants and bars.

“Drunk white people looking for a fight were part of the violence narrative last night. I have seen them jeer, spit, and throw things at protestors and try to hit them since wed when protest first went downtown.” – Brandon Soderberg

By Monday, the city’s Black high school students walked out of classes with the intention of having a festival of the oppressed. The police became the targets of reprisal. After decades of repression and brutality, the working class and poor youth of Baltimore decided that it was time to exact revenge. Pitched street battles took place in West Baltimore between rock and brick throwing youth and cops with tear gas, rubber bullets and riot shields. The entire city came to a standstill with reports of the police shutting down the city transit system. By nightfall, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and deployed 5,000 National Guard troops to Baltimore. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a Black woman, announced the implementation of 10 P.M. to 5 A.M. curfew starting from Tuesday April 28, in effect for one week.

What’s surprising to this writer is how long it has taken for the rebellion to take place. This writer is fairly familiar with Baltimore, having visited the city three times during the 1980s and 90s. Baltimore is a very unique city. It’s a Southern American city with a Northern industrial economic and political structure. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the country with its architecture and geography. Yet it is one of the most socially polarized cities in the world. It’s racial and class divisions reflect its Dixie-Yankee split personality.

High school students walking out of class.

Most of the world knows Baltimore through the HBO series The Wire. The program is the most realistic portrayal of the economic, political, racial and social state of Baltimore. What makes The Wire unique is how the cops are presented as the villains and the drug dealers and gangsters presented as decent people forced by the decline of industrial capitalism into criminality.

The Wire is not the first time Hollywood has portrayed the brutality and corruption of the police and judicial system. …And Justice For All is a 1979 film with Al Pacino revealing the corruption of judges in Baltimore. For more than 35 years, Baltimore has been depicted as a cesspool of judicial and police corruption and violence.

The Baltimore riots are a belated and desperate response to decades of abuse of the Black working class and poor at the hands of the politicians, police and the courts. This isn’t about race. It’s about class. Baltimore a majority Black city with a Black mayor, police chief and mostly Black police force. This is about the death of American capitalism which offers no future to poor and working class youth of all races.

Der Kosmonaut is an international freelance journalist, poet, social commentator and political philosopher. A graduate of Radio News and Current Affairs from the National Broadcasting School in Brighton, UK, he has been a producer for CKUT News in Montreal, Radio Orange in Vienna. He was the political editor of The Age of Nepotism in Belgrade. As a poet Der Kosmonaut has been published in Vienna where was the winner of the Slam B Poetry Slam in June 2011. He maintains a blog

Featured image by Patrick Semansky.

Last night a video surfaced showing a Quebec City police officer, later identified as Charles-Scott Simard, SPVQ badge number 3143, firing a teargas canister directly into a student anti-austerity protester’s face:

The canister hit Naomie Trudeau-Tremblay on the jaw, as can be seen in these photos by

Trudeau-Tremblay will be taking legal action and there is a Facebook page up calling for Simard to be removed from all duties.

If the aim had been a little higher, things could have been much worse. Regardless of what you think of the protests, it is clear that shooting a teargas canister at someone’s face is wrong, disperses the teargass no differently than shooting it at the ground, and just plain dangerous.

So today, the good ol’ Anarchopanda made a Facebook post that might signify the beginning of the end of bylaw P-6. Here’s a rough (very rough maybe) translation of what he’s written for our anglo readers.

“Judge Randall Richmond of the Municipal Court of Montreal made a decision regarding the trial of those people, who were defending themselves in court after being arrested on March 22, 2013 for violating article 2.1 of Bylaw P-6 (i.e. not providing an itinerary). The judge said:

Article 2.1 of P-6 does not constitute a violation,

Even if article 2.1 of P-6 did constitute a violation, the violation should have constrained the demonstration. Given that nothing in the evidence shows that the accused were the organizers of the demonstration, there is no link between the detainees and the violation of the article.

The police officers who have testified have written tickets for the detainee, without notifying them that they had done so, which constitutes a false declaration.

Plus, some other critiques about the command structure of the SPVM.

Thanks to Lynda Khelil for the info!”

*** UPDATE: The full text of the decision has been released. You can download it as a PDF (2MB). In total, 16 people were acquitted. We will be publishing commentary and analysis in the next few days.

This is interesting news indeed! It’s still not the kind of decision we’re hoping for (i.e. P-6 is actually unconstitutional), but it’s a start, we might say. What do you think?

This post originally appeared on, republished with permission from the author

With Chelsea Manning in prison for 35 years, Edward Snowden on the run and the NSA monitoring everyone, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg called it the start of the American police state.

It’s hard to disagree with Ellsberg who would likely be in jail today if the freedom to expose government wrongdoing was demonized in the 1970s as it is today. However, I don’t think the American police state is just getting started.

It was underway early in Bush’s first term following 9/11 and has continued unabated ever since. Back then, a majority of Americans were content on trading a little freedom for security.

Politicians, entertainers, reporters, liberals and conservatives alike were often too afraid to speak out against the coming changes for fear of being labeled a traitor or unpatriotic. Manning and Snowden are the twelve year old results of the “with us or against us” mentality.

No surprise, it all started with something called the Patriot Act. When it was introduced, certain individual rights got taken away. Warrant-less wiretaps, indefinite detention of immigrants, and now we have the assassination of American citizens abroad.


Since then, America has slowly turned into the Soviet Union without the socialism. You might think that’s a little harsh, but we’re not far off when you look at what is happening around the country.

The Soviet Union under Stalin used a massive network of spies and secret police to sniff out dissidents throughout the country, even within his own party. You couldn’t trust anyone, not even your own children.

In the United States these tactics would never be tolerated. It’s a little too in your face. Lucky for us we’re in the information age and such strategies are no longer required.

Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin (one of the best at covering our surveillance state) observed that the American government has more data on the average American citizen than Stalin had on Russians, Hitler had on Germans, or any government has ever had on its own people.

The Soviets sent dissenters to the Gulag, an extremely horrific network of forced labor camps where prisoners often worked themselves to death. Thankfully conditions in the United States aren’t nearly as severe, but it doesn’t hide the fact that the US has the highest prisoner rate in the world and a lot of them are forced to work.

You might say the Gulag was filled with political prisoners, something we don’t have in the United States, but what are whistleblowers? People who are locked up for exposing secret, but illegal government activities; I would think that’s the very definition of a political prisoner.

The fact is more whistleblowers have been charged under the hundred year old Espionage Act by President Obama than all other presidents combined. I like the progressive president, but he has pursued these people with a sense of vengeance after praising them in his 2007 campaign.

American-Police-State-1The American police state isn’t restricted to the federal level or the dozens of police and security agencies that enforce it like the NSA, FBI, CIA, ATF, etc., etc. Examples of the police state can be found within each state, in major American cities and local police forces.

The best case in point would be in New York City. Take the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy, for instance. Aside from the fact that the policy has proven to be vehemently racist, what kind of free society allows their police officers to search people without just cause?

Imagine casually walking home from work only to have a police officer stop you, ask for ID, question you and frisk you. All you’re guilty of is walking home. How is this any different than the Gestapo asking you to see your papers?

Since the war on terror began, police forces across America have become increasingly militarized. It can be argued that this began during the ongoing war on drugs, but following September 11th, the government purse opened up and billions were poured into local police forces.

Now whenever you see a sizable peaceful protest, you can be sure the urban assault vehicles are right there behind the well armored riot police. The Occupy Wall Street movement was evidence of this.

The cops seem to be well coordinated around the country as well. Once billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg had enough of the occupy movement and sent in the police, occupy protests were broken up across the country almost overnight.

Whether you’re a Democrat or liberal, Republican or conservative, libertarian or someone who can’t even name the president, you have to admit that something has gone terribly wrong in the land of the free.

The growing American police state could get worse before it gets better, unless regular people start addressing the issue. Who’s to say whoever comes after Obama won’t decide to build upon what his predecessors molded. Even worse, who’s to say he won’t use it for his own political advantage.

Over 100 demonstrators marched through downtown Montreal yesterday protesting police brutality. The protest lasted two hours and was notably peaceful – Black Bloc protestors were visible but, despite launching a few fireworks, subdued – no arrests were made, and the action’s reward was scant media coverage.

The demonstration merited a short QMI story, a Journal de Montréal video, and a 79-word Radio-Canada report. There was no English media coverage (that I could find).

This was in marked contrast to the slew of headlines generated by the anti-police brutality march three months earlier, part of a worldwide day of action held annually. The protest in March involved thousands of demonstrators and ended in 226 arrests – the enduring image being the flipped-over police car on Ste. Catherine’s.

Police brutality in Montreal – especially killings at the hands of police officers – is a year-round issue, a point yesterday’s demonstration was attempting to make. The lack of sustained political pressure and media coverage is clearing the path for a controversial police brutality bill currently under debate in the Quebec National Assembly.

Bill 46 – “An Act respecting independent police investigations” – seeks to form an independent civilian oversight committee which would ensure, in theory, that investigations of police officers are on the level.

At the moment, for cases involving a police officer – including when an officer shoots and kills a civilian – the investigation is conducted by a police force external to the force involving the officer being investigated. So for example, when a Montreal police officer shoots a civilian, the investigation would be conducted by provincial or Quebec City police.

On the surface, civilian oversight of these investigations looks like a good thing. The actual bill, however, observers would not be allowed to speak to either principal characters in the case or the investigators. A spokesperson for the investigating police department would answer all questions.

The restrictions provoked a fiery critique from Quebec ombudsperson Raymonde St. Germain, who called for an independent civilian board to carry out investigations itself. St. Germain’s model is inspired by similar bodies in Ontario and BC, and has been lauded not only for its comparative impartiality, but also for its cost-saving effects.

Hearings on Bill 46 began in March, but the debate has proven polarizing. Police unions are supporting the bill, while human rights and civilian groups as well as the Montreal city government and its opposition parties are siding with St. Germain in opposing its current form.

Meanwhile, police killings continue in Quebec – and continue to cost the taxpayer money. In January, Montreal police shot and killed homeless man Farshad Mohammadi in Bonaventure Metro station. Last summer, Montreal police shot another homeless man – Mario Hamel – after he allegedly threatened officers with a knife; police also shot a bystander on his way to work during the altercation.

More high-profile cases continue to drag through the courts. The August 2008 shooting of 19 year-old Fredy Villanueva in Montreal-Nord, and the September 2007 death of Claudio Castagnetta in Quebec City as a result of being tasered by police, have yet to be fully resolved.

The officers involved in both incidents were exonerated by their respective police-led investigations, prompting renewed legal challenges of the legitimacy of those rulings. As of last summer, the inquiry into Villanueva’s death has cost $1.8 million, plus a further $760,000 in lawyers’ fees for police, paid for by Montreal taxpayers, according to 24 Heures.

According to a report conducted by the Commission des droits de la personne et de la jeunesse, there were 339 investigations by police of police action causing death or serious injury, but criminal charges were laid in only three cases.

The core of St. Germain’s arguments were that the public has lost faith in the credibility of these police investigations. Improving Bill 46, she said in her recommendations, is one route towards regaining this trust.

“The bill can and must be improved, in the best interests of the public and the police,” writes St. Germain. “The status quo cannot continue.”

With the student conflict and the Charbonneau Commission driving Quebec towards a seemingly inevitable September election, one can only hope that Bill 46 and the investigation of police brutality can manage to sneak back into the public and media consciousness.

That said, the media hasn’t been terrible. The Gazette has a useful compendium of police incidents in Montreal dating back to 2000, including a map of all police shootings on the island.

*all photos by Henry Gass

Ethan Cox is a Montreal-based writer and political organizer. He was formerly FTB’s news editor and the Quebec director of Brian Topp’s NDP leadership campaign. He is currently a special correspondent reporting on the Maple Spring for where this post originally appeared.

Québec Solidaire MNA, and co-spokesperson for the party, Amir Khadir was arrested last night in Quebec City. Video from TVA shows him in handcuffs and being led onto a bus with an unknown number of other demonstrators.

A message was posted on the Facebook page of Québec Solidaire, the left wing political party for which Khadir is the only MNA, explaining that Amir left the National Assembly, heard casseroles, and decided to join the completely peaceful march.

The demonstration was declared illegal, some part of it was kettled, arrested and loaded onto a bus. In a statement on Khadir’s arrest, Québec Solidaire says 65 were arrested alongside him.

All, including Khadir, were charged with a violation of article 500.1 of the highway safety code. Something the QS post points out as odd, given that it was an entirely peaceful casseroles march.

The SPVQ (Quebec City police) declared the demonstration illegal because no route was provided. However they proceeded to ticket all those arrested under the highway safety code for obstructing traffic and claimed they were not using Bill 78.

While police in Montreal use a municipal by-law passed concurrently with Bill 78, which replicates many of its provisions, to declare demonstrations illegal which have not submitted a route eight hours in advance, I am unaware of a similar by-law in Quebec City.

Therefore it seems ridiculous for the SPVQ to claim they were not applying Bill 78 when they declared the demonstration illegal. The provision in the Highway Code relating to blocking traffic is meant to be used on people who run around on highways. By definition a protest is “blocking traffic”, so if it can be used on protests then all protests are illegal. Using this law to lay $494 fines on peaceful protestors is an egregious abuse of police authority, and misinterpretation of the law.

The sad and sorry truth of what is happening right now in Quebec is that, insofar as protest is an established pillar of democratic society, our democracy is breaking down.

Kettling has been declared illegal by the G20 inquiry in Toronto, and senior commanders are losing their jobs for employing the technique. Meanwhile in Quebec, it remains the bread and butter of the Montreal and Quebec City police forces.

Bill 78 has been declared unconstitutional by the Quebec Bar Association (representing lawyers and prosecutors) and yet it stands. It is now essentially illegal to protest in this province, and anyone who dares do so risks arrest and a charge or fine.

Democratic society was built by demonstration. It is because of demonstrations that democracy itself exists in our societies. That blacks are treated equally, that women can vote, that we have the weekend. Every good thing about society was fought for, in the streets.

And now Charest, our delusional and demonstrably corrupt Premier, thinks he can eliminate our right to protest? That he can send in the riot squad to arrest peaceful citizens expressing an opinion? That he can arrest a fellow member of the National Assembly for daring to agree with them?

Ya basta! Charest has got to go. Not in a few months, but now. He has taken a broadsword to the fabric of our democracy. He has arrested over 3000 peaceful demonstrators, more than during the October Crisis. He has ignored the will of the people, the very people whose consent he requires to govern.

We have the power my friends. His power comes from our consent. If we withdraw our consent he is powerless, an emperor naked as the day he was born. And I bloody well withdraw my consent!

Forgive my anger, but this latest egregious assault on our most basic liberties has hit me like a final straw across the back. I’ve had enough. I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.

If you’re in Quebec, you know what to do. Make tomorrow the largest night of casseroles this province has yet seen. Let the very ground quake with the sound of our pots and pans and righteous indignation!

If you’re anywhere else, tomorrow night was already scheduled to be Casseroles Night in Canada. Well over 100 locations around the world have already signed up to hold solidarity casseroles tomorrow at 8PM. Check the list for your town, if it isn’t there start your own casseroles! All you need is an event page, which you should post on the page for the national event. You’ll be amazed at how many people join you!

Let this be the last straw for us all. Nothing is more important than protecting our democracy, and it is most certainly under attack in Quebec.

Some will say the protesters are the undemocratic ones, not respecting decisions of elected representatives. Some will say protest is nothing to do with democracy, that the institution is confined to the ballot box. They should read more, because they are ignorant to the history and meaning of the word democracy.

A democratic government is responsive to the people. Charest is not. A democratic government allows all protests, no matter their cause. Charest does not. A democratic government does not arrest the innocent, does not sweep up large swaths of people on the street. Charest does.

If we lose this struggle, if we allow ourselves to be bowed and beaten yet again, I promise you it will not end here. This is our moment, our line in the sand, our primal scream “This far, no further!”

Wherever you are, whatever you do, join us in the street. To rail against the wicked, but also to celebrate the beauty, the love and the community of our movement.

In the flames of this debacle was born a beautiful thing. Call it civil society, call it community, call it the 99%. In the joy of our casseroles, we came together and shared our love.

An amazing indy filmmaker I met this week has a tattoo on her arm which reads “Love is the movement” For her, we all do what we do out of love. Love for our fellow people, love for our children (born or unborn), love for the earth.

This movement has awakened our communities, and set the fire of love burning in our chests. We are together, we are strong, and we’re done being pushed around.

We’re done being called crackpots and communists for questioning our governments’ slavish obedience to big business. We’re done being arrested, beaten and threatened for exercising our democratic rights. We’re done with greed, with austerity and with unbridled and unhinged capitalism.

You don’t need to be a communist to think our system is out of control. I daresay Adam Smith would agree.

So tomorrow, and every day after, send a message to the world. Our love is greater than your violence. Our community is stronger than your repression. Our dreams of a better world are better than your empty cynicism.

Across the globe, they rally for us Quebec! Because we will win. Because we must win. Because the consequences of losing now are too grave to contemplate.

I know some of you are scared. You have every reason to be. But we cannot let that fear win. If the fear of the police keeps us at home, they have already beaten us. Be peaceful, be joyous, be loving. Stand together and be strong. They cannot arrest us all. There is strength in numbers, and there is strength in each other.

Tonight, my heart is with Amir, and all the others. Tomorrow, I will be in the street. It’s too important not to be.


Follow me on Twitter. The revolution may or may not be televised, but you can bet it will be live tweeted! @EthanCoxMTL

With all the protesting going on these days, Montreal has become a veritable political theatre for all manner of agitprop and self-expression. Of course, no anti-whatever rally would be complete, these days, without the requisite Guy Fawkes masks, bandanas worn as masks, balaclavas (aka ski masks), etc. What do all of these things have in common? Wearing them may soon be a criminal offense punishable by jail time (up to 5 years!).

I hear you shouting what the fuck is he blathering on about this time? Maybe you haven’t heard about Harper’s latest attempt to curb your freedoms with Bill C-309, a needless, excessive, overly vague new amendment to the criminal code being proposed by Alberta MP Blake Richards? Lest you think that this is yet another authoritarian measure originating from Canada’s favourite quasi-American state (props to our right wing Albertan comrades for resisting the siren song of Daniel Smith in the last election), consider that Mayor Tremblay is thinking about a very similar bylaw (for the second time since 2009) that would also make the wearing of a mask an offense at protests in Montreal.

Obviously this is an idea that, as the kids like to say, has gone viral. So may I propose my usual unbiased (Ha ha!) legal analysis on the subject? Firstly, the bill in its first reading stage of the House of Commons, would change the law to make the wearing of a mask during a riot, whether actively participating or not, guilty of “disguise with intent” and could face a rather heavy punishment. Unless they have a ‘lawful excuse,” that is. Only the law doesn’t define what this might be.

Could this law be used by unscrupulous police to pick up people in Halloween costumes or wearing a niqab, for example? Thus far, the government isn’t saying. The worst part is, the current laws already treats wearing a “disguise with intent” to commit a crime, for example robbery, as a criminal offense.

As for the Mayor of Montreal’s planned bylaw, he’s already lined up various law and order types to support his initiative, including Yves Francoeur (President of La Fraternité des Policiers et Policières du Québec) who made this ludicrous statement on the matter (my translation): ‘We don’t need to preserve anonymity in a free and democratic society like ours!”

Really!? What about whistle blowers and witnesses under police protection, Monsieur Francoeur? At the risk of getting carried away, this is seriously disturbing mentality. When you combine this type of thinking with the other legal measures taken by the Harper government (especially C-30’s privacy violating provisions), you get a legal climate in which our privacy is increasingly under threat.

Anonymity is an integral part of our constitutional right to privacy. The famous Montreal-based human rights lawyer Julius Grey believes that the authorities behind these proposals haven’t thought them through and that they won’t hold up in court. He says that if people that are in the closet or fearful of public scrutiny aren’t allowed to mask themselves at public events, they are likely to think twice about participating. In effect, then, these measures limit their freedom of self-expression and right to peaceful assembly.

* Photo by Phyllis Papoulias

Last Monday two people were shot and killed by Montreal police. One was intermittently homeless and severely psychologically disturbed. The other was going to work, killed by the ricochet of one of three or four bullets fired by an SPVM constable. News updates pertinent to this story have been spotty and unfortunately eclipsed by F-1 weekend, and the key spokesperson for the SQ has been tight-lipped about how the investigation is proceeding. This week it came out that the constables involved were not interviewed until several days after the fact.

The SQ had returned to the scene, indicating it was both unusual and not unusual simultaneously. Those involved, much like the deceased, were brought to CHUM St-Luc, where they were sequestered from the public. CCTV footage from UQAM (which has yet to be made public) is said to exonerate the constables, as the mentally unstable Mario Hamel supposedly charged them with a knife.

At the end of the day, the SPVM is once again embroiled in scandal, the people of Montreal have a little less faith in law enforcement, and whatever seems obvious and factual in this case is muddled by collusion and potential conflicts of interest. Once again, the SQ, previously well known for the aborted siege of Kanehsatake and their propensity to send ‘agents-provocateurs’ into the fray at various demonstrations, have been brought in to investigate the actions of their municipal colleagues. Such is life in Montreal, and the regularity of this scenario has doubtless numbed the populace to the continuing problem of police brutality and excessive force. I’d like to think this was our quaint provincial problem, another element of badassery for a city high on street-cred; “don’t fuck with Montrealers, cuz they’ve been schooled by the Montreal fuzz” that sort of thing but there’s something about this particular case which stands out and has started affecting the way I think.

The word ‘tragedy’ has been artlessly applied by the few people available to speak openly about the case, such as the seemingly mal-informed Sureté public-relations hack. I suppose it is somewhat tragic, though in PR parlance ‘tragedy’ implies ‘accident’, and there’s nothing accidental about pulling the trigger of a ‘quick-action’ service pistol whilst aiming it at a man’s torso. Moreover, it can hardly be accidental when three or four shots are fired.

I can’t believe that there’s anything accidental or necessary about this shooting, when there are so many potential alternatives to using deadly force. I don’t mean to play armchair police-officer, and I still believe that the majority of law-enforcement in this country are regular people who work hard at their jobs and take themselves and their work with utmost seriousness. That being said, it increasingly looks to me as though we may have a law-enforcement problem in this country, one which is beginning to mimic the well known problems south of forty-nine in terms of excessive force, though fortunately not yet in terms of frequency.

For one, a security guard at the St-Luc hospital, which has its fair share of mentally and psychologically impaired visitors, told a local reporter they handle violent psychopaths and delusional schizophrenics with muscle, numbers, latex gloves and ‘talk-down techniques’. Hamel was well known in his circles, and had made some progress dealing with his mental health issues. That being said, when police approached him that fateful day, he was ripping open garbage bags and tossing their contents into the street.

I can’t imagine how one could be a good cop and not know the curbside insane intimately, but apparently the constables involved in this fatal shooting saw him as a lethal threat and used, as they would describe it, appropriate force. Their seemingly indiscriminate shots also hitting a maintenance man, Patrick Limoges, on his way to start an early morning shift. As he fell, nearby construction workers rushed to his aid, only to be dissuaded by gun-toting constables who warned them away from assisting the stricken man. It’s either for reasons of crime-scene control or because those involved weren’t sure which one was the threat. Either way I’m unimpressed.

We don’t need to dig up the growing list of innocent citizens killed by the SPVM for one reason or another over the years it’s long and there’s a fairly accurate list online somewhere. Nor do we need to contextualize this incident within the scope of post-9/11 public security planning, or even our country’s own sordid history of police brutality and misconduct you can do your own research, and I know it will be worth your time. That said, what we ought to be focused on are some of the more basic elements of law-enforcement in this city, this province and country. For starters, are guns necessary in the first place? Could Mario Hamel have been stopped with a taser, a baton or pepper spray? If so, why were these weapons not employed instead? A few days after Hamel and Limoges were killed, SPVM constables responded to a distressed woman in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve similarly armed with a large knife; they tased her and that was that.

Second, would regular neighbourhood foot patrols have helped police identify Hamel as fundamentally innocent, given his psychological problems? Would Hamel have felt as threatened if he recognized the intervening constables?

I don’t want to fault the people who did the shooting as much as the system which put a gun in their hand in the first place. I want to blame the system that has flooded our city streets with poor unfortunates who require counselling and medication, but instead will die as anonymous corpses frozen to sidewalks. I want to know what changed our perspective; at what point did a cop go from being a civil-service employee, like a teacher, social-worker or mail-carrier, to someone who exists above and beyond the realm of normalcy an individual who enforces laws, ostensibly for the public’s benefit, and yet doesn’t have to play by the same rules as the rest of us. Where’s my Police Brotherhood when I fuck up at work? Why can’t I take people’s cameras without reason? Why can’t I push people off the street with impunity? Why am I paying the salary, however indirectly, of the people who may one day kill or abuse me, perhaps tragically?

But the most disturbing fact, after all that has been written about recent incidents of police brutality and misconduct, here in the 514 or elsewhere in Canada, is that the public is as paralyzed collectively as they are individually. We’ve become numb. Tolerant of yet another excess. But unlike apathy or deep-fried food, the excesses of law-enforcement, culminating in abuse and brutality as we’ve witnessed over the course of the last decade, will undoubtedly compromise our individual sovereignty.

People must act now before it’s too late, and though this nightmare scenario has ‘been done’ insofar as we’ve seen it manifest itself across the silver screen, it doesn’t mean we aren’t already in the process of losing our collective assurance to individual freedom. And freedom from needless death is pretty crucial it’s one of the ‘pillars of difference’ that distinguishes our society from the dictatorships we precision-bomb.

And yet, here we are; on my short walk back from work the other day I passed five banks and a synagogue. Each had a security guard out front.