Today I’m proud to announce a personal victory in the courts of Quebec. After a two-year legal battle, both tickets I received while doing my job and for doing my job as a journalist during Quebec’s COVID-19 curfews in 2021, amounting to $3,100 in fines, have been dropped entirely.
The Montreal police became politically driven in their use of COVID-19 authority, but Justice Johanne White put them in their place, with a strong emphasis on the rights of journalists in Canada.
Today we look back at how the Montreal police tried to bully independent journalists with thousands of dollars in fines to hide Quebec’s draconian COVID-19 curfews, and the court ruling which now reveals just how political the Montreal police became during COVID-19.
This is all thanks to those of you who donated to support our independent journalism at JournalistDefenceFund.com.
Montreal is known for its vibrant nightlife and endless parties, but as politicians in Canada began implementing COVID-19 measures, Quebec, like all other provinces, increasingly restricted their people’s social engagement. This also came with heavy police enforcement, and dissenters were ridiculed by government-funded media.
During early 2021, barely a year after COVID-19 began, if you were outside from 9:30pm to 5:00am police considered you guilty of violating curfew. They were imprisoning people in their own homes en masse.
The streets were emptied. Life had come to a halt, the once lively nightlife in Quebec was now being forcibly emptied by the government. This was the case even in places like Gatineau, just across from Ottawa. For those who did dare go outside past their government bedtime, legal exemptions or otherwise, the streets were now under full control of police.
Our Rebel News reporter Yanky Pollak was at the heart of these curfews, in the seemingly targeted Jewish neighbourhood of Outremont in Montreal. Even if you had a legal exemption letter to be out past curfew, often you would be fined thousands of dollars regardless.
Luckily for Yanky and I, both times we were stopped together, officers acknowledged our media credentials. To see Yanky’s relentless coverage of curfews, night after night throughout the pandemic, go to LockdownReports.com.
The very same night Yanky faced antisemitic remarks from Montreal police, I was blocks away walking the empty streets with a coworker. We had stumbled upon a house party being shut down; this is when I met Detective Sergeant Collard. Officer Collard tried to get us to stop recording his midnight interrogation and said CBC or CTV weren’t themselves reporting on these draconian curfews, so we as independent journalists had no right to do so ourselves.
I’ve been stopped by Montreal police more than 15 times during the curfew and given thousands of dollars in fines, even though I have a media exemption. Last night @SPVM called me over and asked if I was “media juif” — Jew media. Outrageous.https://t.co/WHFZdtRHRp pic.twitter.com/FzbywMHRxX
— Yanky (@Yanky_Pollak) March 21, 2021
He held zero regard for our legitimate official exemption letters, and we stated our journalistic intentions. He made sure to put his mandated mask back on after going to his supervisor, while two more officers stood around until he could issue us $1,550 tickets each.
But that didn’t stop us from going out again the very next night. This time, there were four of us. It was even crazier than the night before, and again they refused to acknowledge our journalist exemption letters. I received another $1,550 fine along with all my coworkers that night, totaling $6,000.
To see how police handled themselves through that night, and during the absolutely astounding follow up event, their attempted boat raid and seizure of our entire news team in Quebec, go to LockdownReports.com. The Montreal police were ruthless, and I ended up leaving Quebec with $3,100 in fines for reporting on the curfew, even though I had official exemption documentation from the government.
I wouldn’t have been able to fight these tickets alone, which is why I’m grateful to those of you who donated to help us cover these important stories at JournalistDefenceFund.com. We were able to hire a lawyer to fight for my innocence. Finally after two years, it was time to face the Judge. Forced to fly back to Quebec to testify in-person, I could see life had begun to return to Montreal.
Police tried to argue that there were no media events to cover, even though they have absolutely no right to do so. They accused us of being far-right and not “recognized” media, and complained that we dare be outside without masks and that we stood too close to each other.
Police thought us filming with cell phones gave them an excuse to bully us, and on top of that, they tried to make the outright hypocritical claim that we were there to provoke police into giving us thousands of dollars in tickets, when they themselves had harassed us.
Our lawyer was strong in my defence, pointing to our massive Rebel News court win against the federal Leaders’ Debates Commission, granting us access to ask leading politicians crucial questions the mainstream media wouldn’t. Finally, soon after attending the courts in Montreal, Justice White finally came to a decision:
“The responsibility to determine who is a journalist and who is not, and how to report in accordance with the journalistic standards are not within the purview of this Court.”
“In several court decisions, the identification of Rebel News as media is not called into question 8. The Court cannot therefore conclude, as the policeman said, that it is not a recognized media outlet. In our country, freedom expression is protected by our laws, whether or not we agree with the opinions expressed.”
”The Court cannot conclude that Mr. Fizzard was not in the exercise of his ‘journalistic’ functions during his arrests.”
“The defendant is acquitted of the offenses charged.”
Two years later, we finally beat the Montreal police and their political curfew tickets, again thanks to those of you donating at JournalistDefenceFund.com.
But while prosecutors were trying to incriminate me for simply going outside at the wrong time, over 300 real criminal cases were either stayed or dropped, leaving actual crime in Quebec going unpunished.