At least 15 people who attended a house party aimed at flouting COVID-19 restrictions in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge, Que., on the weekend will be receiving $1,000 fines, Quebec provincial police say.
Officers arrived at the party at around 10 p.m. Saturday after receiving complaints.
Party host Steeve Charland told Radio-Canada in French that four officers arrived, took down his identification and the licence plate numbers from cars parked outside. He described the police visit as a “courtesy call” and said they didn’t try to break up the party.
But police say it was no courtesy call.
Sgt. Marc Tessier, a spokesperson with the Sûreté du Québec, said at least 15 people will be fined $1,000 each. Plus fees, the true cost will be closer to $1,500.
Tessier said an investigation could yield more fines — all related to breaking the six-person limit on gatherings inside a private home under the province’s rules for orange zones.
Charland would not give an exact number of guests but did said there were more than 30. As of Monday, he said no one had yet been fined.
Provoking a police response
The party was a chance for the group to thumb their noses at authorities and was prompted by Premier François Legault’s decision last week to cancel plans to allow some Christmas gatherings in order to stem a surge in COVID-19 cases, said Charland.
He posted a video from the party on social media, showing revellers without masks and celebrating the event as a deliberate decision to break the province’s rules.
“We wanted to provoke a response,” said Charland in French. “We wanted to denounce these excessive [COVID-19] measures.”
A video taken at the party shows a large group counting down from three to say “F-U Legault” in unison while gesturing with their middle fingers.
Charland has been an outspoken critic of COVID-19 restrictions and said he’s had previous parties — sometimes visited by police. No fines were issued for his previous parties, he said.
If he receives a fine now, Charland said he is prepared to fight the penalty which he calls a violation of his charter rights.
Mayor not impressed
Grenville-sur-la-Rouge Mayor Tom Arnold said he wasn’t happy to see police resources spent on Charland’s party.
“I was definitely not impressed,” said Arnold, who wants the province to improve communications for people who continue to question the importance of adhering to restrictions.
The community has had few cases and Arnold hopes the house party does not lead to more.
“They have to understand the pandemic we’re living with,” said Arnold, who wants them to consider the measures as a necessary sacrifice to protect seniors and the community’s most vulnerable citizens.
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