MONTREAL – When you gotta go, you gotta go. Just be prepared to pay for it – on the spot.
A 30-year-old Ontario man, who was in town to whoop it up at a bachelor party a few days ago during that province’s Civic Holiday weekend, discovered it’s illegal and expensive to urinate in public in Montreal – $367, to be exact.
"I’ve got to tell you, that was a real hit for me," said the engineer from Toronto, who admits to having ducked out of a St. Laurent Blvd. nightclub to pee early Sunday.
As he did so, about five Montreal Police officers approached him, and one said he was going to give him a ticket. Another, the engineer said, told him "to go back to his own country."
The engineer, who is of East Indian origin, spoke on condition that his name not be published, out of fear his run-in with police could affect his career.
One police officer insisted the fine be paid on the spot, or the man would be arrested.
"So I went to the TD Canada Trust ATM, gave them the money, and they gave me a receipt," he said in a phone interview from Toronto.
In the meantime, one of the engineer’s friends, who was trying to get an explanation from the officers, was given a $150 ticket for disturbing the peace, but wasn’t forced to pay the fine immediately.
When the engineer pulled out his cellphone to film the exchange between his friend and police, he said a female officer told him to put it away or she would confiscate it.
Police spokesman Ian Lafreniere said it’s up to the officers involved, but when an out-oftowner breaks the law, it’s perfectly legal for police to ask for the money up front.
"If you say you’re ‘going off to France and screw you, I’m not going to pay this fine,’ this is a way to make sure you pay it," Lafreniere said.
In March, a Surete du Quebec officer insisted an Ile Perrot motorist pay $168 for not wearing his seatbelt. When Blair Houston, who had a Florida driver’s licence, said he didn’t have enough money with him, the officer escorted Houston and his family to a bank, where they got the cash.
As for the alleged racial remark Sunday, Lafreniere refused to comment about it. He said the person could file a complaint online with the police ethics commission.
Lafreniere called the use of a cellphone intimidation of police and said that since it’s a criminal offence, the officers have the right to confiscate the phone.
Media lawyer Mark Bantey called Lafreniere’s assertions "nonsense."
"In a free and democratic society, citizens are allowed to photograph and film public events, including the actions police officers may take," Bantey said. "They can’t arrest a photographer and certainly not confiscate the camera because the photographer is ‘intimidating.’
The engineer, embarrassed by his public urinating, won’t contest the ticket, even though he has a right to, but does plan to file a complaint about the alleged racial slur with the police ethics commission.
Has the experience soured him on Montreal?
"Not at all," he said. "It’s a great city and I’ll be back."