Montreal homeless advocates call for amnesty when it comes to COVID-19 curfew

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Montreal homeless advocates call for amnesty when it comes to curfew'
Coronavirus: Montreal homeless advocates call for amnesty when it comes to curfew
WATCH: Organizations working with Montreal’s homeless population claim the government is disconnected and out of touch, after Quebec's premier said he expects people living on the street to abide by the province's curfew. Some advocates are calling for amnesty, arguing many shelters in the greater Montreal area are full or have reduced their services. Global’s Felicia Parrillo reports – Jan 7, 2021

The director of Resilience Montreal said she was outraged when she heard that the provincial government would impose a curfew and that it would also apply to the homeless.

“If you’re on the streets and you’re cold and tired and have nowhere to go and you have a cop giving you a ticket for $1,000-6,000, that’s just rubbing salt in a wound,” said Nakuset.

During his press conference Wednesday, Premier François Legault, said he hopes those living on the streets will be indoors between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., and that there’s enough room for them.

Nakuset, however, says that is simply not the case.

“Let’s say there’s about 4,000 homeless people, but the Hôtel-Dieu can only house 300, or if the Royal Victoria Hospital is only opening 100 beds fairly soon, or if there’s just one hotel that has space for about 30 people — that’s still not enough,” she said.

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Since the first wave of the pandemic, several overnight shelters, designated hotels and warming centres have opened in Montreal to provide beds for those in need.

But advocates say there’s still not space for everyone.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Montreal’s homeless population at higher risk with lockdown, advocates worry'
Coronavirus: Montreal’s homeless population at higher risk with lockdown, advocates worry

Plus, recent coronavirus outbreaks among the homeless have caused some shelters to either close or reduce services.

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Some argue that the premier’s comments were out of touch.

“The announcement was really disappointing,” said Martin Pagé, executive director of Dopamine, a Montreal community organization.

“They didn’t take knowledge about what’s going on in the field. It was quite shocking.”

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Advocates are calling for amnesty when it comes to the curfew and the homeless population.

On Thursday, Quebec’s Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbualt said the goal is to help those who need shelter find a place to stay, and that she doesn’t want officers to give tickets just for the sake of it.

But when pressed about giving amnesty to the homeless, she wouldn’t promise.

“It will be (up) to the judgment of the police officers, but they are used to dealing with homeless people and we all share the same goal of helping them,” she said.

But just in case, Montreal lawyer Dylan Jones said he’s willing to fight any tickets in court.

“They’ve been shown in the past to act with discrimination, or in a discriminatory fashion, so the door is open for that,” he said.

In a statement to Global News, Junior Health Minister Lionel Carmant said the province is monitoring the situation closely and hopes that the police “show tolerance and avoid distributing unnecessary tickets to the most vulnerable.”

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Coronavirus: COVID-19 infection rate climbs among Montreal’s homeless

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