Despite a video of a man being tackled for refusing to wear a mask at Tim Hortons going viral, Montreal's first weekend under Quebec's new mandatory face-covering rule went "rather smoothly," police say. The video shows the man arguing with a police officer by the restaurant's front counter, repeatedly saying that he is "allowed to order without a mask." The man is then apprehended by two police officers who bring him to the ground after a struggle.
They put him face down on the floor while a woman off-camera is heard saying, "For a mask! For a mask!"
Later, a third officer comes in to help.
The video, shared widely online, drew strong reactions on social media but aside from this one frightening incident, the numbers show the vast majority of people have been complying with Quebec's mask law, said SPVM inspector André Durocher.
"It's encouraging to see that, generally speaking, people respected the guidelines," he said.
"When you look at the situation for the whole weekend, for the whole Island of Montreal, it went rather smoothly."
Durocher said Montreal police received a total of 8,543 emergency calls from July 18 to around 4 a.m. on July 20.
Of the 8,543 calls, 103 related directly to the pandemic situation. About half of those calls were for alleged COVID-19 related infractions where people notified the police after seeing people going mask-less in an enclosed public space.
Police recorded these incidents but took no further action, he said.
Here we go! People are getting arrested for not wearing a mask. Found this on Facebook. #Montreal #COVID19… https://t.co/gyM3Z2Gvtk— Lynda. (@Lynda.) 1595102920.0
The other half were from shop keepers reporting customers for refusing to comply with Quebec's new face mask rule but in these cases the individuals decided to leave the establishment before police arrived.
"People call the police but while the person is calling 911, the individual says 'maybe this is not the best idea,' and they leave," explained Durocher.
"So, by the time the police officers arrive the person has left and nothing happens."
"There was only one situation where we had to intervene physically and proceed to an arrest. It's the one you saw on social media Saturday," he continued.
Durocher declined to comment on the incident but he explained that when a merchant calls police to expel someone for refusing to wear a mask, the guidelines are for the officers to give the person a chance to comply.
"If you refuse to comply, you can leave and there are no other consequences that go with it," he said.
"However there are situations where people will refuse to comply and say, 'no, this is my right not to have a mask,' well we have to, at some point, apply guidelines and it becomes a case of expelling somebody.
"If the individual refuses to comply, they're arrested for obstructing a police officer."
According to the Montreal Gazette, management called police after the man refused to wear a mask while ordering at a Tim Hortons in Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension on Saturday afternoon.
The man was later released and will appear in court for obstructing a police officer, the Gazette reported.
On Saturday, the province began requiring face coverings in all enclosed public places in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Quebec.
The mask rule applies to everyone aged 12 and up, though people with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing face coverings will be exempt.
Businesses that fail to comply could risk fines as high as $6,000.