Calèche owners and Montreal headed toward showdown

Click to play video: 'Last ditch effort to keep Montreal caleches running' Last ditch effort to keep Montreal caleches running
The head of the Montreal Calèche Owner's Association is taking legal action to keep the city's calèche ban from being applied as of Jan. 1. – Dec 16, 2019

Luc Desparois is fighting to protect his way of life.

The owner of more than a dozen horses and carriages has filed an injunction to stop Montreal’s calèche ban from being enforced on Jan. 1.

“It’s kind of a bit stupid. Why do you think it’s not good for the horses to be in Montreal,” he said Monday afternoon, soon after his lawyer filed the injunction.

The Montreal bylaw precludes all calèche operators from using a horse to pull a carriage in the new year. All existing calèche permits will automatically expire on Jan. 1 and won’t be renewed.

The city has given operators one year’s notice to comply and transition to another form of employment. The city is also offering to pay $1,000 in subsidies to help find new homes for the horses outside of Montreal.

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READ MORE: Horse-drawn carriages draw controversy across Canada — why are advocates pushing for a ban?

“This is why our bylaw is solid,” Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said at City Hall Monday afternoon. “We took the time necessary to put all pieces together, not to leave behind the people working in the industry or the horses.”

The bylaw was introduced following several incidents in recent years where horses have been involved in accidents or have collapsed. There are already regulations in place precluding operators from bringing out the horses in extreme heat or cold.

“These are issues that have really preoccupied and concerned us as an administration and we wanted to see something done about it,” Coun. Sterling Downey said.

But Desparois disagrees.

The horse-drawn carriage ride in Montreal is a tradition that dates back to the 19th century and Desparois argues it shouldn’t end.

“You say the horses are mistreated, you say it’s not good for the horse to do this? Give the proof, give me the proof tomorrow, I will stop doing this. I love my animals, I wouldn’t hurt them,” he said.

The injunction will be heard in court Tuesday afternoon.

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