Quebec tables bill to force police to ditch colourful camo pants protest

Quebec tables bill to end cop pants protest

MONTREAL — In recent years, Montrealers have become used to seeing their police officers working in bright pink military-style pants, jeans and even leggings.

But while they don’t profess to be fans of the look, several Montrealers expressed mixed feelings about a bill tabled Thursday that would force the officers to ditch the colourful pants they’ve been wearing to protest changes to their pensions.

Lucie Landriault, 64, said she thought the pants were an embarrassment to the city but still wasn’t sure it was right to legislate officers back into their uniforms. 

“I’m divided because they don’t have the right to strike, and they don’t have a lot of pressure tactics (available to them),” she said on a pause from a bike ride in Montreal’s Old Port.

“At the same time it’s unsightly and embarrassing — downright embarrassing.”

Her spouse, Bernard Packwood, said he felt the protesting cops were disrespectful, especially when they wore camouflage pants and jeans at the funeral for former Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau.

“It’s a disgrace, it’s unsightly and it lacks class,” he said. “But I know they don’t have a lot of means of pressuring, so for the rest I’m a bit divided.”

Montreal police have been wearing camouflage and other brightly coloured pants since July 2014 as part of pressure tactics stemming from a battle over pension reforms.

The bill tabled Thursday by Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux would amend the Police Act to obligate officers and special constables to wear the uniform and equipment provided by their employer.

At a news conference, Coiteux denied he was taking away one of the police’s few available means of protest.

“We’re not curtailing freedom of expression, not at all, but it can’t be done through disrespecting the uniform,” he said.

“There are other ways to express disagreement than not wearing the uniform.” 

If the bill passes, Coiteux said officers would face fines ranging from $500 to $3,000 for a first violation, but that could amount could double for repeat offenders.

Coiteux added it’s important for police to wear their uniforms to maintain public confidence and ensure officers can be easily identified.

On Thursday, some Montrealers out on the street agreed with him.

“We’re talking about the forces of public order,” said 27-year-old Livia Miller when questioned on the issue. “If they want citizens’ respect.. its better if they have a unified look.”

But others said they don’t care what police officers wear as long as they perform their duties.

“It looks silly, but I’d rather they be doing their jobs than worrying about pants,” said Brian Naud, a resident of Montreal’s West Island.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press