Cross-Canada charity runner Curtis Hargrove’s Quebec arrest brings publicity boost

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

At any given time, Canadians are walking, running, cycling, skateboarding or finding some other way to get from one end of the country to the other for some charitable cause.

Terry Fox, the young one-legged cancer survivor whose tragically interrupted cross-country Marathon of Hope remains an inspiration more than 30 years after his death, was the model for pushing one's personal limits to fulfill a noble goal.

The troubled Steve Fonyo completed Fox's coast-to-coast run before spiraling into a life of petty crime that saw him stripped of his Order of Canada a couple of years ago. He was a sobering reminder that our heros are human, not plaster saints.

And Rick Hansen overcame an auto accident that put him in a wheelchair to circumnavigate the globe to promote spinal cord research.

Of course, few people who take on such a challenge end up being lionized across the country and around the world. Most toil for their causes in relative anonymity, maybe getting a line or two in the local paper or a quick video clip on TV news as they pass through town.

[Related: Terry Fox's van to be preserved at museum]

Which brings us to Curtis Hargrove.

The 23-year-old Cold Lake, Alta., man decided he was going to run across Canada to raise $1 million for a children's hospital in Edmonton, CTV News reported.

Things apparently were going fine until he hit Quebec.

Hargrove was pounding along on the shoulder of the Trans-Canada Highway near Quebec City on Monday, followed by the RV that served as his support vehicle, when a police highway patrol officer stopped him.

It's illegal, for obvious reasons, to run on the highway. Police rightly worry a speeding car could turn someone like Hargrove into a hood ornament.

"I didn't know I couldn't do that," Hargrove told CTV News.

But Hargrove's problem really started when he refused to shift to a secondary road.

"I ran on the Trans-Canada Highway all the way from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and I hadn't had a problem," he said. "I had escorts and everything."

Hargrove told the cops he would keep running on the highway, the National Post reported.

"I said 'You can give me the ticket, but I've got to run. I've got a goal in mind, I've got to keep going,' " he said. "I've been stopped on the side of the road for two hours now."

At that point, Hargrove was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice. His friend Morgan Seward, driving the support RV, was ticketed for pulling over in an area with a minimum speed limit of 70 kilometres per hour.

Hargrove was held for several hours at a Quebec City police station and released after agreeing to divert to a safer route.

When he got back to his RV to eat dinner and go online to blog about his experience, a group of teens ripped the Canadian flag off the vehicle and tried to tear off other signs before he chased them off.

Sgt. Ann Mathieu of the Surete du Quebec, the provincial police force, said the officer who stopped Hargrove gave him every chance to get off the highway and even offered to map out an alternate route that runs parallel to the Trans-Canada.

"He refused the options given by the officer -- the officer had no other choice but to arrest him," Ann Mathieu, told CTV News.

CTV News reported that Terry Fox had to divert his run from the Trans-Canada Highway in Quebec after being threatened with arrest.

But as P.T. Barnum (or was it Brendan Behan) said, there's no such thing as bad publicity.

Up to this week, Hargrove had only raised about $14,000 since starting out from St. John's 45 days previously, The Canadian Press reported.

News coverage of Hargrove's Quebec bust brought a flood of donations, the Post reported.

"It's the best thing that could probably happen," Hargrove said.

Expressions of support showed up on his Facebook page, along with anti-Quebec comments that he's been deleting as fast as he can.

"Everyone, I know your trying to be supportive but could you please put the negative views aside and stop bashing, as it is only making things worse for me," he wrote on his page. "There are a lot of WONDERFUL PEOPLE IN QUEBEC and we have received a lot of visitors and many donations so far."

"I'm not going to blame Quebec for a couple of things. I love the support here," he said in the Post, adding that he received more than $500 in donations from Quebec residents.

Hargrove reportedly plans to get back on the Trans-Canada once he leaves Quebec.