Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante apologized on Twitter on Tuesday morning for the wrongs suffered by people arrested en masse by the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) in the past decade. The same morning, representatives of the collective actions won in February against the City had made the express request at a press conference.
“The right to demonstrate is fundamental and we will always defend it, assured the mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante, Tuesday noon on Twitter. This is why I reiterate the City of Montreal’s apologies to the people who demonstrated in 2012 and whose rights were violated by the former P6 by-law, repealed by our [administration]. »
A more “sincere” public apology had been requested the same morning by representatives of the class actions against the City of Montreal during a press conference held at the University of Quebec in Montreal.
“We don’t want excuses on the cheap,” then launched Sandrine Ricci, representative of one of the 16 class actions who won their case against the City of Montreal by an amicable agreement on February 22.
She asked for a more visible collective public apology than those attached on the City of Montreal website in a press release.1 of a hard-to-find paragraph.
The municipal administration reiterated to The Press its recognition of the right to demonstrate. ” [Ce droit] is fundamental and our administration has always been committed to defending the freedom and security of citizens who express their point of view,” the mayor’s office said.
The P6 regulation, which notably obliged demonstrators to provide their itinerary and prevented them from covering their faces (adopted by the administration of Gérald Tremblay), has moreover been repealed by the Plante administration, we remind the firm.
“I feared for my safety”
“That evening, it was, among other things, my right to safety and my right to integrity that were violated, but also our right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and association, which been bullied, ”Isabel Matton testified on Tuesday. On May 20, 2012, the then daycare educator took part in a nocturnal demonstration at the corner of Sherbrooke and Saint-Denis streets in Montreal.
The demonstration took place within the framework of the maple spring in opposition to the increase in tuition fees, but also to the new special law 78 of the Charest government, adopted two days earlier. This controversial law limited, among other things, the right to demonstrate.
In front of the media, Mr.me Matton said she is still living with the after-effects of the illegal arrest she suffered that evening: “I feared for my safety. I was blinded by cayenne pepper, I breathed tear gas for the first time, I heard a sound bomb explode right next to me. I was scared. […] I received shield blows as I cried, in tears, to the police to stop hurting me, ”she describes.
“We were detained for hours, overnight, without access to water, toilets, food, while the police taunted us, threatening some of them to give us a ticket if they urinated on the public road, she continues. We were told that we deserved how we were treated. »
Today, she still has nightmares. “I was afraid to go out to demonstrate. I’m still afraid to demonstrate, ”she says.
A request for recognition
The six representatives of various class actions decided to speak on Tuesday, because they believe that the City of Montreal must also report on the changes made by its administration to ensure that the SPVM modifies its practices.
Remember that under the agreement signed in February, nearly 3,200 people will share $6 million, or compensation of approximately $1,500 per person.
Beyond the amount of money, it is the symbolic significance of this legal victory that matters, explain several representatives gathered at UQAM.
“The objective of the class action was not to reduce our fundamental rights to a sum of money, but to bring the City to fully assume the consequences of its undemocratic management of the demonstrations. Apologies only have meaning if they are clearly, explicitly and publicly expressed and taken on board,” they said in a press release.
Representatives referenced the 2017 public apology by former Montreal mayor Denis Coderre regarding police roundups of LGBTQ+ communities, from 1960 to 1990.
The SPVM reacted for its part by emphasizing the “constant evolution” of its practices in order to “increase its expertise”. “And this, always with the same goal: to maintain the right balance between respect for the individual rights and freedoms of our democratic society and respect for peace and public safety in collective urban spaces for the benefit of the peaceful enjoyment of places by the whole population. »