Quebec City protest against health restrictions rolls into 4th day

A crowd has gathered in front of the National Assembly in Quebec City Sunday morning as the protest against public health measures continues for the fourth day.

Along with the people on foot, there are about about two dozen heavy trucks.

The demonstration was loud and stretched about a kilometre in length at its peak on Saturday, but Mayor Bruno Marchand said it has been peaceful so far.

“As long as it goes like this, there is no problem,”  he told reporters in the afternoon while attending the popular Quebec Winter Carnival — an annual event that involves blocking several streets from vehicle traffic.

But Donna Ouellette was none too pleased.

She owns a grocery store and another business on Saint-Jean Street and lives near the National Assembly. She was substantially delayed by traffic snarls Saturday.

“I had to go run errands, the police wouldn’t even let me go down Saint-Jean Street. I was stuck in traffic for three hours to get to my parking lot,” she said, calling the incessant noise “disrespectful.”

Similar to the protest in Ottawa that began the week before, convoys of trucks and other vehicles rolled into Quebec City Thursday evening with horns sounding and lights flashing.

People also gathered on foot near the National Assembly, waving flags and holding up signs that call for an end to mask mandates and other sanitary restrictions.

Police issue traffic tickets, make 1 arrest

Quebec City’s police service (SPVQ) issued warnings Sunday morning to trucks parked on René-Lévesque Boulevard, saying the vehicles will be towed if they aren’t moved.

The SPVQ says officers distributed 15 tickets for Highway Safety Code violations and handed out 17 parking tickets  overnight. It’s not clear how many of these tickets are related to the protest.

Police issued 11 tickets to protesters for disturbing the peace and 10 for violating the Highway Safety Code. (Camille Carpentier/Radio-Canada)

Around 8 p.m. on Saturday, officers arrested a 31-year-old man for blocking traffic with his vehicle. The vehicle was then towed to clear the lane. 

The SPVQ handed out more than 50 tickets during smaller demonstrations on Thursday and Friday evening, mostly for road safety violations.

Premier François Legault  “will no longer have the choice to back down,” said  Keven Bilodeau, a protest organizer, on Sunday. 

On Thursday, Legault sent a firm message to those planning to take part in the protest:  “We won’t tolerate any mayhem.” The premier has continued to post to Twitter over the weekend, but said nothing about the protest.

Among the protesters, which included people of all ages, was Vincent Bélanger. He travelled a long way from his home in Port Cartier on Quebec’s North Shore to denounce the province’s vaccination passport, calling it “discriminatory.”
Another protester, Jérôme Bergeron, said, “We are fed up with the sanitary measures, there is some incoherence in what the government tells us,” he said. 
On the other side of René-Lévesque Boulevard Saturday, a small counter-demonstration took place. Some of them encouraged drivers to honk if they have been vaccinated.

Quebec scaling back restrictions

Interim director of Quebec Public Health, Dr. Luc Boileau, said earlier in the week that relaxing public health restrictions may lead to “more contagion, with the risk in particular of seeing more hospitalizations.”

Regardless, the provincial government is pushing forward with its plan to scale back measures.

As of Monday, performance halls and cinemas can open to 50 per cent capacity, to a maximum of 500  people.

Places of worship can open up to 50 per cent as well, with a maximum of 250 people and a maximum of 50 people can now attend funerals.

Next week, gyms and spas will be allowed to open at half capacity. Gyms and other fitness centres have been closed in the province since late December, when they were shuttered in order to limit the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.






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