Brave Canadian challenges Quebec’s notorious Covid curfew

DPCP v. Pépin

Brave Canadian challenges Quebec’s notorious Covid curfew

DPCP v. Pépin

On January 9, 2021, the Government of Quebec began enforcing one of the harshest Covid lockdown policies in the world, prohibiting people from leaving their homes between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. Quebec was the only jurisdiction in Canada to impose a curfew. 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 to May 28, 2021, and a second time from December 31, 2021, to January 17, 2022. Between September 2020 and October 2021, 46,000 tickets were issued in Quebec for violations of the government’s pandemic health regulations. Just under half, about 22,500 of those tickets, were for curfew violations. The total amount of curfew fines has been estimated at around $30 million. 

One brave Canadian, Stéphanie Pépin, chose to challenge the curfew and the violation of her rights and freedoms. 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 violating the curfew.  

With help from the Justice Centre, Ms. Pépin launched a constitutional challenge against certain sections of the Public Health Act as violations of her freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly – protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  

Her hearing took place September 18-21, 2023. 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.  

Unfortunately, Justice Mme Marie-France Beaulieu dismissed Ms. Pépin’s constitutional challenge on January 30, 2024, in the Courthouse of Amos in western Quebec. The decision is being appealed. 

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.” 

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