Montrealers’ sense of security is being called into question

With 31 homicides this year, Montreal has been witnessing a spike in violent crimes

Montreal has always been a home to students who live alone, as it was known for its safety and security. However, a sharp increase in homicides and crimes is affecting the way many students view the city.

“I still get shivers every time I step into my building,” said Rhea Bakhach, a business student at Concordia living in downtown Montreal. She recalled how one morning as she was going to work, her building’s lobby was filled with blood as policemen carried a body outside. 

Bakhach’s neighbour, a 26-year-old music teacher, had killed his stepfather and stabbed his mother alongside two other people the night before. 

Bakhach has been living in Montreal alone for two years as her family is back in Lebanon. “My family freaked out, they had me install a second lock, and I considered moving out for a while. I used to feel very safe alone here, but now, not so much.”

The city of Montreal has recorded 31 homicides so far this year, compared to 36 total recorded homicides last year. Half of those involved the use of firearms. According to the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal’s (SPVM) annual report of 2021, homicides increased by 44 per cent last year. Compared to the last five years, the numbers are up by 39.5 per cent. 

“Coming from Mexico, one of the most dangerous countries in the world, even with everything happening in Montreal, I feel that I am safe living here,” said Rafael Ruiz González, an international journalism student at Concordia who lives in Verdun. 

“It is worrisome to see this spike in crimes here but we have seen so many headlines and stories about violence that now we’re just immune to it and learn to live with it,” said González. 

Michel Abou Jaoude, a government social worker, believes that there is a correlation between the rising crime rate and mental health issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“These people committing the crimes are clearly not well-surrounded,” Abou Jaoude said. “With the labour shortage that’s been happening, a lot of resources that used to help troubled youth are no longer available.” 

The labour shortage has also impacted the SPVM. Montreal Police Chief Sophie Roy announced during a news conference on Aug. 27 that the Quebec government will dedicate an additional $250 million to recruit 225 more officers in Montreal to help with this issue. 

“Gun violence is also a major factor in these stories. More laws should be controlling the entrance of illegal guns,” added Abou Jaoude. 
A national freeze on the ownership, transfer and sale of handguns was announced as Bill C-21 was introduced earlier this year in May. While the bill doesn’t ban handguns for now, it limits their possession to the people already living in Canada. This decision might help restore the sense of control and safety that people are longing to get back.


Protesters demand resignation of police officer

Photo by Marie-Josée Kelly

A call for the dismissal of Constable Stéfanie Trudeau and a condemnation of police brutality was the message of protesters that took to the streets of the downtown core Friday night.

Trudeau, better known by her badge number 728, was temporarily suspended from the police force last week following the release of a video showing her use foul language and excessive aggression against a civilian during an arrest, Tuesday, Oct. 2.

“That incident was thankfully recorded but we don’t know how often this happens,” said protester and second-year nursing student at Dawson College, Geoffrey Graham.

Graham believes that Trudeau overstepped boundaries and her behaviour was unacceptable.

Photo by Marie-Josée Kelly
“I tend to be optimistic and hope that it does not happen very often but I just want it to be as widely known as possible that this is not what we believe our police should be doing, they should be protecting us,” he said.

Trudeau also gained notoriety during the student conflict when a video posted online showed her pepper-spraying individuals who appeared to be non-threatening during a protest. She is suspended pending the results of an internal investigation into the allegations made against her.

Michael Arruda, a Montreal Police mediator followed Friday’s demonstration and was on hand to resolve any conflict that might arise.

“I know a lot of the people present here tonight,” said Arruda. “I’ve walked with them this summer [in the protests] and I say we’re going to have to give the system a chance, see what they have to say. I haven’t lost faith in the system yet and I think justice will be done.”

The march ended around 11 p.m. with no arrests reported.



Students arrested at UQAM and U de M

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

The first week of classes at universities which suspended their winter semesters due to the student strike movement saw clashes between protesters in opposition of the tuition fee increase and Law 12 with administration, security, and Montreal Police.

Hundreds of classes were cancelled at both Université de Montréal and Université du Québec à Montréal as students blocked access to classes in both French-language universities.

Under Law 12, the emergency legislation passed by the Charest Liberals in May aimed to curb protests and allow students to attend class, the winter semester was cancelled at post-secondary institutions paralyzed by the student movement.

The protests at the universities last week forced classes to be cancelled as students physically blocked access to classrooms where confrontations between demonstrators and security, staff and students wishing to attend class ensued.

On the first day of classes at UQAM, a group of masked students roamed the hallways with lists of departments that voted in favour of the student strike in order to empty the classes where the strike was not respected. The students managed to disrupt many courses resulting in professors ending the class early.

At U de M, Montreal Police detained 19 individuals on Monday, Aug. 27 for allegedly violating provisions of the back-to-school legislation Administration of the university asked Montreal Police to intervene after dozens staged protests within the school where a standoff between students and security occurred.

“These people have been released with no conditions,” police Commander Ian Lafreniere told the press last week.

“They received a paper mentioning they are under investigation with Law 12.”

This is the first time Law 12, or Bill 78, has been applied in Montreal.

On Aug. 10, the Montreal Police announced that enforcement of the emergency legislation would only be applied if universities request it. By Tuesday, Aug. 28, more than 30 arrests had been made with regards to Law 12 or general violations of the criminal code.

At UQAM, administration decided to handle the disruptions without the help of the police, in fear of creating more tension at the university. The school’s spokesperson Jenny Desrochers told The Gazette that UQAM did not want to exacerbate the situation by bringing in police officers.

On Wednesday, Aug. 29, U de M decided to cancel classes for the rest of the week for the six faculties that voted to continue their strike. That same day, approximately 100 demonstrators flooded the downtown core.

Marielle Villeneuve, a first-year student at UQAM slated to start school in October, is not worried that protests will stop her from attending her courses.

“I think everyone is annoyed with the student strike,” said Villeneuve. “I don’t think my department will be on strike but I know my courses will be more intense due to time constraints.”

However Villeneuve says she’s awaiting the outcome of the upcoming provincial election to see how the university is affected.

“It’s UQAM, so you don’t really know what’s going to happen,” explained Villeneuve. “I think if Liberals are still in power, there will surely be protests.”


Bomb threat at Concordia a false alarm

Montreal police were at Concordia’s Loyola campus to investigate a call concerning a bomb threat received by the university Wednesday morning.

The suspicious call came in at 10:25 a.m. and was later deemed to be a false alarm.

“There’s no danger to the community and it’s over,” said Concordia spokesperson Chris Mota. “Everyone is safe.”

The police operation ended at 12:25 p.m. and focused on securing the entire west-end campus, according to SVPM spokesperson Daniel Fortier.

“We used procedure as usual, so police officers verified the outside of all buildings, security guards checked inside the building for anything suspicious,” said Fortier. At least one police sniffer dog was seen on campus as well.

Mota said the police took the appropriate measures.

“The police and the university have an obligation to make sure everything is safe,” Mota added.

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