Curfew : Exemption for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness
On January 8, 2021, the Government of Quebec imposed a curfew on the entire population of Quebec under decree number 2-2021. This decree “prohibits any person, between 8:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., from being away from his or her residence or in lieu thereof or the grounds of such residence” [translation], unless an exception provided for in the decree applies.
Individuals experiencing homelessness are not covered by any of the exceptions provided for in the decree.
The Mobile Legal Clinic argued that the homeless population was suffering serious and irreparable harm as a result of this curfew. It is alleged that decree 2-2021 violated the rights protected by the Quebec and Canadian Charters insofar as it applied to homeless individuals. Some of these individuals were fully unable to comply with the curfew, while for others, compliance meant they suffered serious prejudice.
As a result, on January 22, 2021, the Mobile Legal Clinic, represented by counsel from Trudel Johnston & Lespérance, filed an application for judicial review and sought an application for an interim stay in the Superior Court against the Attorney General of Quebec.
Essentially, the application sought to have decree number 2-2021 declared invalid to the extent that it applied to individuals experiencing homelessness. The Mobile Legal Clinic also asked the Court to suspend the decree with respect to homeless individuals until a new order was issued or until a judgment on the application for judicial review was rendered. This was requested as a safeguard to protect the rights of these individuals and to avoid irreparable harm before a final decision on the merits of the case.
On the same day, the application for an interim stay was heard by the Honourable Justice Silvana Conte on an urgent basis. Justice Conte adjourned the case to Monday, January 25, 2021 to give the Quebec government time to prepare a response.
On January 25, 2021, the Mobile Legal Clinic, represented by Trudel Johnston & Lespérance, presented its case to the court.
The next day, January 26, 2021, Justice Chantal Masse of the Quebec Superior Court suspended the application of section 29 of Order in Council number 2-2021 establishing the curfew from 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. to the extent that it applied to individuals experiencing homelessness until February 5, 2021. The Mobile Legal Clinic welcomed this decision, which protects the rights and well-being of people experiencing homeless during the pandemic
Early in the morning the next day, January 27, 2021, the Minister of Health and Social Services, Lionel Carmant, announced over social media that the Quebec government would not challenge the Superior Court’s decision to suspend the application of the curfew.
The government will therefore amend article 29 of the decree issued on January 8, 2021 (Number 2-2021) in order to officially exempt homeless individuals from having to comply with the curfew.
This decision is a major victory for the Mobile Legal Clinic, because it means the organization will not need to return to court in order to further debate the constitutionality of the curfew or to apply for a renewal of the stay order. People who are currently experiencing homelessness are now formally exempt from curfew.
Trudel, Johnston & Lespérance was proud to represent the Mobile Legal Clinic in this important file pro bono.
You can read the Justice Chantal Masse’s judgment by clicking here (French version only).