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Quebec's Rationale For A COVID-19 Curfew Appears To Have Been Flimsy At Best

Montreal public health argued against the second curfew. Quebec went ahead with it anyway.

Senior Editor
Nearly empty Montreal street next to the Olympic Stadium during curfew hours in January 2021.

Nearly empty Montreal street next to the Olympic Stadium during curfew hours in January 2021.

After a bombshell report from Radio-Canada's Thomas Gerbet revealed officials were looking for a way to justify Quebec's second curfew on the very day it was announced, the Ministry of Health has made public an ethical opinion from Montreal public health (DRSP de Montréal) that argued against the measure. Quebec, of course, went ahead with the curfew anyway.

Gerbet had previously obtained the opinion through a document access request, but every line of text was completely blacked out. Following outcry, the ministry released the unredacted version.

In the document, Montreal public health, citing potentially harmful effects on vulnerable populations and a "lack of robust effectiveness data," recommended that officials seek "alternative measures" to the curfew.

The DRSP argued that transparency in decision-making was essential to maintaining public trust in and adherence to health measures.

It also listed what it called some of the damaging "collateral impacts" of the first curfew in 2021, including increased social isolation and the risk of exacerbating domestic violence situations. The DRSP further recalled the death of Raphaël Napa André on the night of January 16, 2021. André was found in an outdoor portable toilet, where he had apparently tried to shelter during curfew hours.

The released opinion accompanies an email chain Gerbet cited in his initial report in which the office of then-National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda asked public health top brass to supply an argument in favour of the curfew, including studies that supported it.

In response, an official from the Institut national de santé publique (INSPQ) wrote that "we do not have an existing analysis that specifically addresses the curfew and we are unfortunately unable to produce one today with such a short notice."

The Ministry of Health ended up citing studies from France.

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