Huntingdon needs help not a busybody MNA
The Gazette, Montreal, Quebec, July 7, 2004
Andre Chenail's sudden emergence as a fervent champion of civil rights is more irritating than praiseworthy. Lawyers for the Liberal MNA were in Quebec Superior Court this week, filing a petition challenging the nightly curfew the little town of Huntingdon was planning to impose on its sometimes unruly teenagers.
Chenail's lawyers argued the curfew, approved 5 to 1 by the town council and widely supported by worried local residents, violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and they might well be right. It has always been our contention a curfew is the wrong solution to Huntingdon's problems and an unnecessary limitation on the freedom of the area's teenagers.
But still, the last thing Huntingdon or any other Quebec town needs right now is some interfering busybody of an MNA sticking his (or her) oar into its affairs. Quite frankly, Chenail's challenge smacked more high-handed arrogance than a love of liberty. In the first place, Huntingdon only resorted to the anachronistic and somewhat draconian curfew because it doesn't have any decent policing. It no longer has its own force, having been pushed by previous provincial governments to hand that responsibility over to the Surete du Quebec.
But the nearest SQ station is 17 kilometres away in Ormstown, and it's responsible for 13 small towns scattered over an area more than twice the size of Montreal Island. The station's policy is to have two patrol cars on duty during the night shift to monitor the entire Chateauguay Valley region, but often there's only one. The detachment simply has too many miles to cover and too few cars and too few officers to do it with; it has no spare resources to chase down unruly teenagers smashing windows, overturning tombstones and chucking excrement into the local swimming pool.
And although the idea of a curfew might be wrongheaded, the town council, led by Mayor Stephane Gendron, has hardly been unreasonable. It has softened the original proposal so that the 10:30 p.m. curfew applies only to children younger than 16 rather those 17 or under and it has added a number of exceptions to make life easier for teens who need to work or want to go to parties or local dances. Gendron is also trying to increase recreational opportunities for local kids, so they'll have something more to do than get bored and cause trouble.
Gendron has backed down on the curfew for now. As soon as he heard about Chenail's court challenge he rendered it null by suspending the application of the curfew, which was supposed to come into effect on Monday, for at least a week.
But Chenail has no reason to crow. In fact, if he really wants to liberate local teens from what he seems to regard as the oppressive horrors of the Huntingdon curfew, there are far more useful things he could do than force the issue in court at the taxpayers' expense.
He could, for example, pressure his Liberal colleagues in cabinet to come up with some some creative solutions to the chronic lack of policing in small towns; or he could come up with some money to improve recreational facilities in the area. In other words, he could get rid of the curfew by helping to get rid of the perceived need for one.
The Gazette (Montreal) 2004