Montreal police brace for reports about illegal parties, urge public to use online form

·3 min read

With strict rules against holiday gatherings in place, Montreal police are asking the public to use an online form to report violations, instead of calling 911.

They say that will make it easier for them to prioritize emergency calls. The SPVM is also reminding people to avoid contacting them on social media or by email.

Law enforcement authorities across the province are preparing for a spike in calls about illegal gatherings after elected officials stressed the need to avoid getting together with people from different households (there is an exception for people who live alone).

Last week, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said reporting on neighbours was "the thing to do" given the skyrocketing number of cases of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Quebec's premier said now was not the time for Quebecers to try to get away with breaking the rules about gatherings. The province has reported a record-setting number of COVID-19 cases every day this week; Thursday's total surpassed 2,300 cases.

The number of people in hospital due to the virus is well over 1,000 and health officials say they risk running out of beds in the coming weeks.

Infectious disease experts have also stated, repeatedly, that indoor gatherings across the province during the holidays could have disastrous consequences.

"Given the fact that the situation is so bad in the city, I think it's a wise idea to report [to police] if you see activity that is actually going to be a super-spreader event or [a gathering] that is going to have consequences for everybody," said Nikita Pai, an epidemiologist with McGill University.

Montrealers not shy about reporting

So far, Montrealers have not been shy about calling out rule-breakers.

In early October, Montreal police began posting weekly updates on social media, detailing the number of calls they received, and the number of tickets they've handed out for public-health violations. On average, they've been receiving 525 calls and issuing around 100 fines weekly.

CBC interviewed several people in downtown Montreal on Wednesday, asking them if they would alert police if they knew about an illegal gathering.

"If I see it's 50 people and it's a party, I'll be way more inclined to report it," said Priscilla Familiar Da Silva.

"But if it's like five people, and it's a family together after not being able to see each other for so long, do I want to be the person to break up that reunion?"

Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press
Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

A spokesperson for the SPVM declined to say how closely officers will monitor indoor gatherings during the holidays.

Pai, the infectious disease expert, is hoping police won't have to intervene.

"I just pray to, and appeal to the people who are thinking 'No, you know what, we've got to enjoy, we've got to have people over'," said Pai. "I just appeal to them to really step back, and just give it up for this year."