Coronavirus: Montreal-area family receives warning from police for holding birthday parade

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After officers issued a warning to a Beaconsfield family for holding a Birthday parade, Montreal police spokesperson André Durocher answers questions surrounding how the public can safely celebrate milestones during this time of social distancing – Apr 6, 2020

The joy of a Beaconsfield, Que., birthday parade was short-lived as Montreal police issued a warning to those holding the celebration over the weekend as strict social-distancing rules remain in effect in the province due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Melissa Leblanc’s family surprised her Sunday afternoon with a procession and a Happy Birthday serenade for her 33rd birthday.

READ MORE: Vaudreuil-Soulanges residents celebrating neighbours’ milestones with drive-by parades

Leblanc’s family, standing across the residential street, sang Happy Birthday and waved posters.

Leblanc says the family drove by her home twice.

During the second passing, she says, about a dozen family members stopped their vehicles.

“It was amazing,” Leblanc said.

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The whole procession lasted a total of 10 minutes, according to Leblanc.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival postponed to fall, Jazz Festival cancelled

Police were alerted to the event after receiving calls from neighbours, according to Insp. Andre Durocher.

No fines were issued, but police gave a warning to the well-wishers for holding a public gathering and disturbing the peace.

“It’s not fair,” Leblanc said.

While she says she understands the severity of the pandemic, Leblanc believes no one was putting themselves in danger.

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She claims everyone was keeping a safe distance between her and each other.

“I was shocked. The closest I got to them was when I went get the bottle of champagne that was left for me on the front lawn,” she said.

READ MORE: Drive-by birthdays — Calgarians celebrate kids’ special days with parades amid COVID-19 pandemic

As birthday parades have become more common, Durocher says there is no prohibition against people having them, however he urges people to stay indoors.

“The best idea is to stay inside, particularly for birthdays,” Durocher said.

“Hopefully, if everyone follows the guidelines, everybody will have birthdays next year.”

Armed with stronger powers, police hope to restrict people’s movement from different regions and cities during the pandemic.

On Monday, Premier François Legault addressed the incident at his daily press briefing and said he trusts the judgement of police officers and supports their decision. “We asked officers to be stricter, so it’s not the time to organize parties, whether it be outside or inside.”

Durocher fears people driving in their cars from different places around Montreal could spread the virus even more.

“If you as an individual stop in front of somebody’s house and wish them happy birthday and just go on, that is fine,” Durocher said.

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Quebecers face fines of $1,546 for holding social gatherings or if they are deemed to not be following social-distancing rules, according to Durocher.

“That’s better spent to keep for next year’s birthday party, ” Durocher said.

READ MORE: Police officers in Montreal, Terrebonne pay tribute to hospital workers

Leblanc says the event left her shocked and distraught.

“Gatherings like this are needed during these times,” Leblanc said.

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