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Legault Responded To Criticism Of Policing Homeless Quebecers During Curfew

"We have to respect police officers and I have 100% confidence in [them]."
Legault Responded To Criticism Of Policing Homeless Quebecers During Curfew

In a press conference on January 21, Premier François Legault responded to criticism surrounding his refusal to exempt Quebec's homeless population from curfew. 

The issue has been the subject of public debate, including calls for action from citizens and community groups — especially since January 19 when Legault claimed, "If we put in the rules that a homeless person can't get a ticket, anyone could say 'I'm homeless, so you can't give me a ticket.'"

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We all want to help the homeless. It’s complex. And it’s not the time to divide, it’s the time to work together.

Premier François Legault

Today, Legault acknowledged that he was "touched" by the passing of Raphael André, a homeless Innu man who died in a portable toilet during curfew hours on the night of January 16. 

"It's not normal in a wealthy society like ours that someone dies in a chemical toilet," Legault said.

But the premier stood by police management of the homeless across the province, explaining that his duty is to find an "equilibrium" permitting police to apply public health measures to "save lives" and "save our health network." 

"Police officers know the reality that homeless people face .... most of the time they know them individually," said Legault.

"Officers are not having fun giving fines to homeless people just for the sake of it. No, police officers understand that homeless people don't have the means to pay those fines ... Their goal is to bring them into a warmer setting, to a shelter." 

Legault said the province has added hundreds of additional shelter spaces.

Quebec announced today that a Montreal soccer stadium would be converted into a site to house up to 150 homeless people who test positive for COVID-19 but do not require hospitalization.

"If there's a need for more places, we’ll add more," Legault said.

"We started vaccinating homeless people also, so I believe that the government and, I'm thinking of [Associate Minister of Health and Social Services] Lionel Carmant, this is dear to his heart ... he does his best to help homeless people."

The premier referenced U.S.-like "divisions," urging Quebecers not to see this as a polarizing topic where people are put in "good" and "evil" camps regarding their views on the treatment of homeless people. 

"We have to respect police officers and I have 100% confidence in [them]," he said.

"I think that the actual rules are the right ones." 

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