Curfew targets vulnerable people more than COVID-19, protesters say

Curfew targets vulnerable people more than COVID-19, protesters say

Stopping people from going outside is counterproductive, they say

Author of the article:

Susan Schwartz  •  Montreal Gazette

People take part in a demonstration opposing the Quebec government's 8 p.m. curfew in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021.
People take part in a demonstration opposing the Quebec government’s 8 p.m. curfew in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021. Photo by Graham Hughes /The Canadian Press

Maggie held a brown posterboard with four words neatly printed in black marker, one beneath the other: masks; distancing; vaccinations; curfews.

Beside the first three, there was a check mark; next to curfews was an X.

Maggie was one of dozens who attended a demonstration Sunday afternoon at Jeanne-Mance Park to protest Premier François Legault’s imposition of an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew in Montreal and Laval “until further notice.”

Maggie said she is “very much against curfews” for two main reasons: they disproportionately affect people with lower incomes, who tend to live in smaller spaces; and curfews target victims of domestic violence by confining them in a space with their abuser.

Maggie, a protester at Jeanne-Mance Park, holds a poster expressing her opposition to curfews during a protest on Sunday, April 18, 2021.
Maggie, a protester at Jeanne-Mance Park, holds a poster expressing her opposition to curfews during a protest on Sunday, April 18, 2021. Photo by Susan Schwartz /Montreal Gazette

Organizers of the protest said on the event’s Facebook page that the curfew also disproportionately affects people experiencing homelessness, sex workers and those who live in small or crowded dwellings.

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“The curfew is the repressive measure of a state that uses its police more and more in a futile attempt to address much wider issues,” they said.

One protester with the Riposte socialiste, a Marxist organization, said he believes it is wrong to impose a curfew on people and because there is no evidence that a curfew is effective in containing COVID-19.

Scott Weinstein, an intensive-care unit nurse who has treated patients with COVID-19 and has “seen the worst of it,” had a poster that said “En plein air sanitaire; couvre-feu autoritare et anti-science.”

“Since the beginning, I have been very concerned about the spread of COVID-19 and the government’s anti-science stance in combatting COVID-19,” he said.

The science is clear, Weinstein said: COVID-19 is aerosol-borne, and aerosols disperse when people are outside. The curfew chases people inside, where COVID-19 aerosols are more dangerous, he said.

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We should encourage people to be outside,” he said. “There should be a curfew to get people outside.

During the 1918 influenza pandemic, Weinstein said, much health care and schooling took place outside.

People take part in a demonstration opposing the Quebec government’s 8 p.m. curfew in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021.
People take part in a demonstration opposing the Quebec government’s 8 p.m. curfew in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021. Photo by Graham Hughes /The Canadian Press

Imposing a curfew is effectively putting people who have done nothing wrong under house arrest, said John Martin, another demonstrator. He equated the imposition of a curfew to a mass house arrest — “and mass house arrest is inherently wrong,” he said. “It’s a ridiculous over-extension of authority.”

Such actions as mask wearing and social distancing have a positive impact in stopping the spread of the virus, Martin said, but a curfew does not. “The virus doesn’t go out just at night.”

Sunday’s protest ended before the 8 p.m. curfew, said police spokesperson Véronique Comtois. There was one arrest and two tickets were issued for infractions of COVID-19 health regulations.

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sschwartz@postmedia.com

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