Old-west sheriff costumes donned by protesting police force in Châteauguay, Que.

Châteauguay cops can wear cowboy costumes, labour board rules

Quebec Public Security Minister Lise Thériault is calling on the mayor of Châteauguay to rein in her police officers after they unveiled their new uniforms: old-west sheriff costumes.

The police officers in the municipality — located on Montreal’s South Shore — donned their new uniforms today, complete with cowboy boots, dark cowboy hats pinned with a sheriff’s badge, and lapel badges shaped like stars.

They are protesting against Bill 3, a bill tabled by the Quebec government in June that would see municipal workers’ pension plans reformed.

Thériault called the new uniforms "unacceptable" and phoned Châteauguay Mayor Nathalie Simon, demanding she call her officers to order.

Simon says she has called on Quebec's workplace safety board to examine the new uniforms to make sure the boots don't pose a danger or get in the way of the officers doing their job.

$25K for new 'uniform'

The Châteauguay Police Brotherhood union spent $25,000 on the cowboy-themed uniforms, purchased at a country-and-western store in St-Tite — Quebec's country-and-western-music capital, located about 125 km west of Quebec City.

The local police union president François Lemay said the new look will not interfere with the work members do while they're on the job.

"We have style and we do what we're paid to do and we give the service and we give that with all our heart," said Lemay.

"Police officers are passionate people, and it's not because I'm wearing this [different] uniform that it changes something to our passion."

But the province's federation of municipal police officers is distancing itself from the pressure tactic.

"The goal of pressure tactics is to put pressure on those who make decisions while maintaining service to the public in its entirety," the federation said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, we believe the wearing of the sheriff's costume while carrying out the function of a police officer cannot guarantee this fundamental goal.

'Lack of respect' for citizens

The new uniform is not leaving people indifferent.

"I find it shows a lack of respect for me as a citizen," said Françoise Théoret. "I find they're spending more time on that than real cases they have to work on."

"They have to give a kind of pressure tactic anyway," said Vince Macri. "I find it's better to have them dressed up as cowboys than not serving the people at all."

Bill 3 states that municipalities and employees are to split pension contributions 50-50.

It could make city employees pay more, and some retirees may also be on the hook for pension shortfalls. Current retirees could have indexed pension increases put on hold.

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