Court upholds Quebec’s unscientific and draconian Covid curfew law

AMOS, QC: The Justice Centre is disappointed to announce the loss in court of a Charter challenge to Quebec’s curfew lockdown. Justice Mme Marie-France Beaulieu read her ruling aloud on January 30, 2024, in the Courthouse of Amos, in Abitibi municipal region in western Quebec.

The challenge was initiated by Stéphanie Pépin, for whom the Justice Centre provided lawyers over the past three years. On the evening of January 9, 2021, while driving to join a 9:00 p.m. protest against the curfew, Ms. Pépin was stopped by police and ticketed for being in public past the 8:00 p.m. curfew deadline.

The curfew law, which came into effect on January 9, 2021, was brought in by Quebec’s provincial government, led by Premier François Legault. It was one of the harshest lockdown policies in Canada, and Quebec was the only jurisdiction in the country to employ such a measure. It prohibited people from leaving their homes between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. Police officers, empowered by the Public Health Act, levied fines against violators ranging from $1,000 to $6,000. The curfew came into force twice, first from January 9, 2021, until May 28, 2021, and then a second time from December 31, 2021, until January 17, 2022.

Ms. Pépin chose to fight the curfew using the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Justice Centre provided lawyers to Ms. Pépin, who challenged certain sections of the Public Health Act as unjustified violations of her constitutional freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. Her hearing took place September 18-21, 2023.

As a result of a subpoena from lawyers provided by the Justice Centre, the week-long trial featured testimony from Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s National Director of Public Health during the pandemic, and Dr. Richard Massé, Arruda’s right-hand man and architect of the Public Health Act under which the curfew was enacted.

Lawyer Olivier Séguin, representing Ms. Pépin, stated, “There have been dozens of challenges to the curfew law, but this one was different. This is the first time in Canadian history that the crafters of the laws under scrutiny were questioned under oath, and it became evident they had no constitutional basis on which to act.”

The decision will be appealed.

For media inquiries, please contact lawyer Olivier Séguin at oseguin@jccf.caor at 438-389-2503.

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