Note: This week I was feeling a bit under the weather, so we have a guest writer. You won’t believe who stepped up to replace me. Quebec Premier François Legault! Amazing, right? I totally didn’t make all of this up as a big joke. I would never do that. This is a serious newsletter. – The Rover
My fellow Quebecers,
Are you sitting down?
I have some shocking news.
I’m not exactly sure how to say this but it seems there’s a band of rabble-rousers — scofflaws if you will — preparing to spread COVID-19 across the island of Montreal. Their plan is to dress up as the homeless and roam the city well past curfew.
When confronted by police, they’ll just say (in a Victorian-era cockney accent):
“Sire, I was lodged at St. George’s workhouse, fed but a porringer of gruel per day.
“When I endeavoured to ask for a second helping of slop, Master Dobbins struck a blow to my head and chased me onto Peel Street, whereupon I became the wretch you see before you!
“Spare a shilling?”
Having never seen a homeless person outside the 1968 classic Oliver! — a musical film adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel — I can only assume that’s how the homeless speak. Do they break out into song and dance as well or is that just part of the movie? I hope they do! Oh how I long for the theatre in these dreary times.
Where was I? Oh yes, the fake homeless.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why would the premier of Quebec — an adult man with a career in business and politics — assume that a human being would be depraved enough to pretend to be homeless so they can be outside after 8 p.m. without being fined by police?
For context, here’s what I said when I was asked this question earlier: “Why don’t we just exempt the homeless from the curfew because, well, they’re homeless?”
I don’t mean to brag but let’s just say I hit that question out of the park.
“If you change the rules so that you can’t give a ticket to someone who says he’s homeless, you can have some people who will pretend to be homeless” I said.
Look, as I said, the police have excellent judgment when it comes to the homeless. Now sure, you could point to the study released yesterday by the RAPSIM research group that found police are ticketing them at eight times the rate that they were in 1994. It also doesn’t look great that the police and métro security guards handed out something like 50,000 fines to the unhoused between 2014 and 2017.
Don’t assume that was a typo. You read it right. Fifty thousand tickets totalling $17 million in fines to people so poor they’re forced to sleep in alleys and under bridges.
But as I said yesterday, “No one expects them to pay that.” And they won’t. They’ll just be forced to perform countless hours of community service or live with thousands of dollars in debt. If they don’t work their debt off, it’ll effectively destroy their credit score, preventing them from ever owning a car, getting their driver’s license or taking out a loan from the bank, forcing them into a cycle of more debt and tickets so they just remain on the streets (which is illegal, right now, so don’t do it).
And honestly, as I was telling my associate Rich Uncle Pennybags, if we show the poor too much mercy, they won’t win at the Game of Life. Surely they can catch a break, they can roll the dice and land on Marvin Gardens or Electric Company or pull a Chance card and take second place at a beauty contest. Or they might not get to pass Go and end up in debtors’ prison. That’s the beauty of life! Or was that Monopoly?
I keep getting sidetracked.
My point is this: Yes, there’s a homelessness crisis. Yes, people are quite literally dying on the streets of Montreal. Yes, the curfew has also effectively emptied the city’s safe injection clinics and put hundreds at risk of overdosing on heroin without access to a nurse that could save their life.
If I made exceptions for the homeless, I’d have to start making exceptions for every person under the sun. I mean, eventually they’ll want me to exempt ice fishermen from the curfew. Ludicrous! Wait, we did that already? Really? Oh shit, the press is gonna have a field day.
Believe me, I would love to help these people. But as I said, we can’t just make up the rules as we go along. Like telling people they can get together for Christmas during a pandemic but then, several weeks and several hundreds of deaths later, telling them — after all that — Christmas gatherings are illegal. Or halting daily COVID-19 briefings because they’re depressing but then, when the goddamn reporters complain, rescinding the initial decision because it looks like we have something to hide.
I assure you, we have nothing to hide!
This government’s record speaks for itself: Quebec has 25 per cent of Canada’s population but accounts for 50 per cent of its COVID deaths. We’ve always wanted to be better than Ontario, and now they can eat our dust! I mean dust as in dust from a racetrack, not like “ashes to ashes” and all that. Of course not. That would be morbid.
In the end, you might think that we’ve just written Montreal off. And you’d be right. After all, we only have two MNAs elected in Canada’s second-largest city. So why should we bother crafting policy that might reflect a better understanding of our only metropolis? Especially when we’re killing it in the polls (and the intensive care units).
So, I’m sorry to say, it’s time for a little tough love for the latté-sipping tree huggers who are so “concerned about other human beings.” And to the journalists who question this government’s compassion and ability to handle a crisis, I say quit being so negative. As I told Quebecers in my public remarks yesterday, questions like that are just meant to divide us.
And my goal is to unite this province.
But not including Montreal Gazette reporter Aaron... Aaron something. Aaron De… Aaron Derf.… Whatever, not that guy!
Or the woman the city of Montreal hired to serve as their anti-racism commissioner. Or the mayor of Montreal. Or anyone who voted for the Liberals, Parti Québécois, Québec solidaire or the Marxist-Leninist Party. And don’t get me started on the goddamn Trotskyites. How ’bout you redistribute my boot up your ass? Ha. Still got it.
In parting, if someone approaches you claiming to be homeless, don’t take their word for it. Ask for some credentials, or maybe they can perform a song from the musical Oliver!
“If it should chance to be
We should see
Some harder days
Empty larder days
Always a chance we'll meet
To foot the bill
Then the drinks are on the house!
Consider yourself our mate.
We don't want to have no fuss,
For after some consideration, we can state...
One of us!”
P.S. I was able to get a couple pieces published this week, which you can read on Ricochet. On Monday I wrote about the consequences of Quebec’s curfew for those who use drugs. One safe injection site told me they’ve gone from 75 clients a night to four, and that means overdoses may be happening in homes and alleys, where there’s no nurse to save the person’s life.
—> Quebec curfew putting lives at risk as safe injection sites sit empty
Later in the week I spent time with some of the people experiencing homelessness who are now subject to heavy fines for existing. While the premier claims there are plenty of spaces in shelters, it’s clear that his words are disconnected from reality. ’
—> ‘I don’t want to die out here:’ Homeless bear brunt of Legault’s indifference
You get it like no one else! Love you, Chris. Xo
You are Verdun's Dickens! You should start the Rover next chapter : a chimney-sweeping theatre company. Thanks for pointing out the ridicule behind these sad postures.