My, oh my, what a year it’s been! Take a trip down memory lane as I list my top 10 Montreal news items of 2015, and talk about how they were significant to this city, and to me personally.
The mood was grim at the NDP headquarters in Montreal as the polls closed and results began to pour in. The shaking heads and long faces among supporters were interrupted by the occasional cheer for one of the party’s 44 victorious candidates.
The NDP’s poor showing on election night was closely tied to its crippled standing in Quebec—a province whose support largely bolstered the party to the status of official opposition in 2011.
Sandrine Traore, an NDP staffer, told The Link that the party succumbed to the divisive politics of the niqab debate, which she underlined as the main factor in their defeat.
“People talked a lot about it, and the media really played with the niqab story,” Traore said. “We lost a lot of Canadians who said to themselves ‘we’re against the niqab, and you’re for the niqab’ … that’s what really influenced them.”
After making phone calls to the other party leaders, Tom Mulcair—who managed to keep his seat in the Outremont riding—took to the stage at the Palais des Congrès to deliver his concession speech.
Despite the NDP’s significant losses, Mulcair remained smiling as he thanked his supporters and committed to working hard for them in the next majority parliament.
“To new democrats here tonight, and in every community across this country: thank you for your hard work, your dedication to our cause, and your steadfast hope and optimism,” Mulcair said. “The next chapter begins in our effort to build a better Canada.”
Results for other party leaders:
The protesters were members and supporters of l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSE), who had gathered at Square Phillips at approximately 1 p.m. to march in opposition to the Quebec Liberal government’s austerity agenda.
ASSE is an organization that represents 80,000 university and college students in Quebec.
Just minutes after the march began, however, the group was cut off on a sidewalk by roughly three dozen riot police officers. Many of the visibly frustrated protesters called this police tactic “absurd,” and demanded they be allowed to march westward on Ste. Catherine St. Continue reading Riot Police Surround Protesters for Marching on Sidewalk
This is the first video in a series that will track my Access to Information request with the Montreal Police service.
Information on public bodies and institutions are available to all citizens in Canada, including journalists – it’s the law! All you have to do is send in the right kind of request.
You can find out more about the process here.
The meeting was organized in conjunction with Tom Henheffer, executive director of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, and Simon Van Vliet of l’Association des journalistes indépendants du Québec.
All too often, journalists who do not fall under the banner of “mainstream” or “professional” are denied access, detained, or made the target of violent actions by the police while trying to cover protests. On Monday, we had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Commander Ian Lafrenière, head of the SPVM’s communications and media relations team, about this state of affairs. What transpired was a frank and constructive discussion about interactions between independent journalists and the police.
Lafrenière made it clear that the SPVM should not discriminate between different types of media, and underscored that he makes no distinction himself. He also admitted that mistakes have been made by individual police officers in the past, but emphasized his willingness to move forward.
A few highlights from the discussion:
Although the results of this meeting are positive and encouraging in theory, it is important that they lead to meaningful change in practice. That being said, there was a consensus among those in the meeting – myself included – that there is reason to be cautiously optimistic. Lafrenière appeared to approach this meeting in good faith, and our exchange covered a lot of very important preliminary ground.
We look forward to continuing this conversation with the SPVM, and hope that it leads to better conditions for all journalists in Montreal.
So it finally happened. After covering dozens of Montreal protests with (relatively) little incident, I was detained this evening by an agent of the peace and given a ticket under Article 500.1 of Quebec’s Highway Safety Code, for a sum of $504.
I will be contesting this ticket in court for the following 3 reasons:
-I am not guilty of the offence described under this article
-My press freedom was flagrantly encroached on by a member of the SPVM
-They got my name wrong
I have a general policy of adhering to police orders when I’m live streaming protests. If an officer tells me to move from a specific spot (say, move to the other side of a street), I’ll generally comply. The reason for this is simple: if you give the officer a hard time and stand (literally) on principle, then you’re increasing the risk of being detained sooner rather than later. In the pursuit of news gathering, this helps no one. You’re taken out of play, and your ability to report on events is severely – if not completely – compromised.
This evening, however, there was no direct warning or order. Around 6pm, police moved in on marching protesters and began detaining a handful of them on the intersection of Stanley and De Maisonneuve in Montreal. As I was live streaming the incident an officer grabbed my wrist, moved me to the front of his police van, and told me that I was getting the ticket. I offered no resistance, yet he still felt it was necessary to keep a grip on my wrist – despite the fact that I was not under arrest, and was cooperating fully.
The officer claimed that I had failed to follow police orders given over a loudspeaker to the 50 or so protesters marching on the streets of downtown Montreal: please protest on the sidewalk.
In response, I pointed out the obvious: I was not present for these events as a protester, and was not marching for the cause (in this case, solidarity with the Unist’ot’en camp volunteers in British Columbia). I was there to capture images for journalistic purposes, and my press credentials were fully visible. The officer was having none of it, and said that police had their “eyes on me” since the march had started. Without explaining this odd statement further, he asked me twice to turn off and put away my phone, which I use to live stream. I politely said that I would not be doing this.
The officer became slightly agitated, and I could feel his grip on my wrist tighten slightly. He then grabbed my phone, and placed it in my pocket, thus ending my live stream. As I stared at him with a mixture of bewilderment and frustration, he asked for a piece of I.D., and told me to stay put while he wrote up my ticket. Here is a (brief) clip of the encounter:
Let’s get back to why I’ll be contesting this ticket:
Firstly, I am not guilty of the offences described in the document. I say “offences”, plural, because the French and English sections actually describe 2 different infractions. In French, roughly translated, I am accused of “occupying a public road in the course of a concerted action meant to block the circulation of vehicles”. In English, I am guilty of “having occupied a road used as an alternate route for traffic diverted from a public highway (huh?) by placing an obstacle (emphasis is mine), so as to obstruct vehicular traffic on the road, without autorization [sic]”.
These offenses described are clearly different, and I am guilty of neither. I did not occupy a public road as part of a concerted action which meant to block traffic. That’s just not what journalists do, ya know? Furhtermore, I did not place any obstacle meant to obstruct vehicular traffic on the road. On this point, I asked another officer if my person would constitute an obstacle, to which he answered in the affirmative. “Yeah, that’s you. You’re the obstacle.”
Man. What a bummer way of describing someone.
It’s also worth noting that the flow of traffic was obstructed by police vehicles, which were stationed on various De Maisonneuve intersections – not by protesters (and certainly not the handful of journalists present). At no point did my physical presence ever impede the movement of a motor vehicle.
But putting aside the language of this ticket, we have a larger issue to contend with here: in detaining me, plucking the phone from my hand and ending my live stream, the officer directly encroached on my press freedom, as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (article 2 (b) ), and the right to expression guaranteed by the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms (provision 3). On what grounds was this action taken? I wasn’t under arrest, and me holding a phone up at about chest level posed a threat to absolutely no one.
Except…well. You know.
Oh, and he spelled my name wrong on the ticket. The officer had my government-issued I.D. in hand, and still managed to make the ticket out to “Mathieu d amour”.
I’m Mathieu D’Amours. I don’t know who that other guy is.
But if you see Mr. d amour, tell him he has a frivolous ticket issued in his name, which was meant for a journalist who was just getting his work done.