Quebec Premier François Legault says no exemption from the province’s mandatory overnight curfew will be given to people who really are homeless, despite calls to do so from advocates and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.

In a news conference Tuesday, Legault said he’s concerned an official exemption could encourage people to “pretend” to be homeless.

On Jan. 6, Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced that an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew would be in effect from Jan. 9 until at least Feb. 8. When asked about exemptions for unsheltered Quebecers, Legault falsely claimed that there is enough room for the unhoused in Montreal’s shelter infrastructure, leaving community organizations to fill in the gaps. While the response to Legault’s statement has rightfully been critical, it is disheartening to see many well-intentioned volunteers wondering how to help, and coming up blank.

This paralysis speaks to a troubling trend in citizen engagement on the question of supporting unhoused populations: That of always being in emergency aid mode. Certainly, the spike in the number of unsheltered people due to the pandemic has introduced a new need to put out fires, but as citizens focus on issues ranging from food insecurity, to the lack of public toilets, to the need for larger shelters, creative solutions to relieve pressure on the shelter system are not receiving the attention they deserve.

The Quebec coroner’s office is investigating the death of a 51-year-old homeless man in Montreal’s Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood over the weekend.

Raphael André’s body was discovered inside a portable toilet in the early morning hours of Sunday, Jan. 17, near the Open Door, a drop-in centre that provides services to the homeless and low-income earners in Montreal and one of the only wet shelters in the city.

I read with much interest, appreciation and joy the recent two-part opinion piece presented in the media by Marie Burge, Laurie Michael and Michelle Pineau on behalf of the P.E.I. Working Group for a Livable Income on implementing a basic income guarantee on P.E.I.

It is wonderful that the legislative assembly of the province has accepted the great work of their all-party special committee on poverty in P.E.I., setting the scene for a way to eliminate poverty in our province.

Quebec’s second opposition party is calling for people experiencing homelessness to be exempt from the government-imposed curfew.

Alexandre Leduc, a member of Quebec solidaire, said Wednesday his party is concerned after hearing reports that homeless people have been ticketed in Val-d’Or and Montreal for violating the health order.

He’s said he’s worried about people with addictions because most shelters don’t allow people to use drugs or alcohol. People who are homeless should not be subject to the curfew, he said.

Ontario’s plan to help poor people has left a lot of blanks yet to be filled, said the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto.

“This plan that the government is laying out is short on specifics,” Michael Fullan told The Catholic Register. “There’s some good statements there, but there’s not any teeth backing it up.”