A Montreal family that was on their way back from New Brunswick says they were unfairly given over $3,000 in tickets on the first night of Quebec’s COVID-19 curfew.
Quebecers are no longer allowed to be outside between 8pm and 5am, but there are a few exceptions.
“Thirty one hundred dollars is not peanuts when you have three children,” says Melissa Calhoun, who lives in Dollard-des-Ormeaux in Montreal’s West Island.
Calhoun, her husband, and three children were driving back from New Brunswick on Saturday night. They say they had been there since mid-December taking care of Calhoun’s elderly father, after receiving special authorization to enter the province from the New Brunswick government.
“He’s 77 years old. He was in the hospital for a bit and he lives alone. He didn’t have anyone to take care of him,” she said.
The plan was for the couple and their three children to come back to Montreal on Jan. 2, but their car broke down.
“We were not able to come back, we were waiting for a part from Germany,” Calhoun explained, adding that they informed the New Brunswick government that they needed to extend their stay and received authorization.
While they were there, Quebec announced the curfew. New Brunswick also announced stricter restrictions. Quebec also confirmed children were starting school on Monday. Finally, Calhoun and her husband chose to rent a car and leave theirs behind. They thought they would make it home before the start of the curfew at 8 p.m.
They also cited one of Quebec’s curfew exceptions, that allows travel for “a person who is going to take an inter-regional or inter-provincial bus, a train or a plane for final travel to the person’s destination,” which they thought would also apply to them.
“I understand the curfew. I understand the rules. We weren’t contesting that. However, we felt like we would fall into the exemption category. We weren’t stopping. We didn’t stop at any stores any time after 8 p.m. We didn’t even get gas,” said Calhoun.
They were stopped by provincial police driving on the highway in Longueuil, about 30 kilometers from home. It was about 10p.m., two hours past curfew.
“They said it appears as though you’re in a gray zone, which means you probably shouldn’t be getting the ticket, but because you’re past curfew, we have no choice but to give you the ticket,” Calhoun said.
“It’s up to each citizen to prove they have a good reason to break curfew,” Surété du Québec spokesperson Stephane Tremblay told Global News, though he said he could not comment on the specific case.
Calhoun said she doesn’t speak French, and her husband is not fluent, and wondered if the language barrier contributed to the ticket. She said the officer did not speak English.
Civil rights lawyer Julius Grey thinks the couple has a strong case to contest their two $1,550 tickets.
“Police are supposed to be understanding, and they’re supposed to go easy. I would think that in a case like that, they should have abstained from ticketing,” Grey told Global News.
Calhoun is hoping that once she explains her situation in court, the fines will be reversed.