Man arrested over deer-related threats against Longueuil mayor; two more investigations underway

Longueuil police have arrested a man in his twenties in connection with alleged threats made against the city’s mayor, Sylvie Parent, over a plan to cull half the deer population in a regional park.

Parent and others elected officials received threats last week when news came out about a plan to cull about 15 deer.

The move was meant manage overpopulation of the animal in Longueuil's regional Michel-Chartrand park. The deer meat was slated to be donated local food bank. 

Police say the man who was arrested on Tuesday lives outside of Longueuil. He was released under certain conditions but may face criminal charges as prosecutors review his file. 

The threats came after a heated discussion on Facebook and an anti-culling petition that gained 35,000 signatures online, with many who signed calling on the city to simply relocate the animals. 

The province has nixed that idea, however, because the deer carry disease and authorities don't think it's safe to move them.

'STATUS QUO IS NOT AN OPTION'

The problem in Longueuil is part of a bigger conundrum across the province. Mild winters and a lack of natural predators have caused the deer population across Quebec to explode. 

Longueuil council, saying its hands were tied, voted to go ahead with the controversial plan last night.

"Status quo is not an option in this situation," said Longueuil City Councillor Jonathan Tabarah.

"The park is dying. There’s Lyme disease spreading in La Monteregie, which is very dangerous. There's tons of car accidents."

But Robert Myles, borough president in Greenfield Park, opposed the plan. 

“I'm opposed. I think there's other ways of doing this," he said.

"I think there's a more civil way of doing things. It's a big thing for the community. Everyone, when they're young, they're always seeing these deer going around and everything, and here we are today -- we want to put half the herd down."

But several members of the public told CTV that the deer really do pose a danger, especially to traffic.

“It’s nice to see, I like deer, but it’s really a danger," said one man who lives near the park. "It’s a hazard when you drive by."

“They have a lot of accidents around the streets [nearby," said another local. 

FINAL CALL UP TO THE PROVINCE

After the council vote, the decision is now in the hands of the province, which could change its mind in the next five days and consider other options, such as animal rescues. 

"If it works well we have a solution for the future," said Myles. "And that's I think our biggest fight, what's going to happen in the future, because these deer move around."

In the meantime, police are taking this opportunity to remind people to debate ideas with "the utmost care, whether it's on social media, over the phone, or in person."

The arrest this week wasn't the only consequence of last week's "debate." Multiple criminal investigations were begun out of it.

In addition to Tuesday's arrest, police are handling two more threat files related to the deer and are investigating the possibility of two more arrests.

"If you write it on social media, you have the same obligation in front of the law" as if you were to say it in person or in writing, said Cpt. Claudine Despres of Longueuil Police.

Police say any threats, whether they're made verbally or on social media, will be taken extremely seriously.

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