Blanchet confident Quebec police won't overuse new COVID-19 powers

As the Quebec government moves to grant police new powers to enforce COVID-19 measures in people’s homes, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet says he's "confident" it won’t be abused.

Speaking to reporters this week, Quebec Premier Francois Legault explained that Quebec police can now obtain "telewarrants," which allow them to quickly gain permission to enter people's homes and enforce new lockdown orders.

As of Oct. 1, people living in the "red zones" of Quebec — including Montreal and Quebec City — will face fines of up to $1,000 if they are caught gathering indoors with people from other households.

"There's no point in having a rule set if you are not giving yourself the tools to implement that rule," Blanchet, who has recovered from his own COVID-19 diagnosis, said during an interview with CTV Question Period Host Evan Solomon, airing Sunday.

While some civil liberties advocates have raised concerns about how these new warrants will be used, Blanchet said he trusts law enforcement to use them appropriately.

"I do hope that it will be applied very, very mildly and that the police officers will be very cautious about the way they use such a power, but I am quite confident they will," Blanchet said.

Still, some advocates are raising the alarm about the new measure. Michael Bryant, executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, told Solomon during an interview for The Evan Solomon Show on Thursday that there is a "strong likelihood" his group or another like it will challenge the constitutionality of any charges that arise from these telewarrants.

"It's an ancient legal principle that a family's home is their castle, and with it come high expectations of privacy and due process and in Canada and in Quebec, there is a constitution that protects people from arbitrary entry into their homes," Bryant said.

He cautioned that, if history is any indicator, these telewarrants may also be disproportionately deployed against marginalized Canadians.

"Studies have proven over and over that Black, Indigenous and people of colour will too often be the targets of these telewarrants, that's just been in our history in Canada and racial profiling by telewarrant is a real threat," Bryant said.

Blanchet warned that if the telewarrants do end up disproportionately targeting marginalized groups, he won't be happy.

"I would, however, be very angry if there were any kind of discrimination against… any kind of minority while applying those powers which the government of Quebec is giving police forces," Blanchet said.

He acknowledged that the decision to extend the police these powers isn't one he envies the Quebec government for having to make.

"I wouldn't have liked to be the one to make such a decision but…there's much more about this disease that we do not know than there is that we do know, and there are some measures that have to be taken without being absolutely certain that this is the right thing to do," Blanchet said.

"But something has to be done, and I am absolutely certain that the government of Quebec and Mr. Legault are doing the best they can to fight this thing."

Blanchet added that while the government of Quebec may make mistakes sometimes, "it's in good faith."

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