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An “alarming judicialization”

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Data shows that people in the courts are increasingly aging. (Archive photo)

  • Félix Morrissette-Beaulieu (View profile)Félix Morrissette-Beaulieu

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University experts are concerned of the growing judicialization of people experiencing homelessness in Quebec over the past 20 years. They denounce an increase in the number of infraction reports issued by the Quebec City Police Service (SPVQ).

Researchers from the universities of Montreal, Sherbrooke and Ottawa analyzed the number of infraction tickets issued to people experiencing homelessness between 2013 and 2022. They based themselves, among other things, on data from the Municipal Court of Quebec.

Their report, entitled The judicialization of homelessness in Quebec: alarming findings, was published Thursday.

One ​​of the most striking observations is the increase in judicialization, notes in an interview with Radio-Canada Céline Bellot, professor at the x27;School of social work of the University of Montreal, director of the Profiling Observatory and co-author of the report.

The data shows that people sent to the courts are increasingly aging. The reasons given for issuing them with tickets have also evolved.

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Patterns which are both linked to the consumption of alcohol in public spaces, but also to all kinds of interactional dynamics, such as insults and obstruction [towards the police], notes Ms. Bellot.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">The district of La Cité-Limoilou, in downtown Quebec, remains the most affected by this judicialization.

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The report highlights the increase in the judicialization of people experiencing homelessness in Quebec. (File photo)

The data shows that the phenomenon is also increasing in Beauport. We know to what extent, in this area, people think about the phenomenon of homelessness which is growing. We also see that if there is an increase in homelessness, there is an increase in judicialization, indicates Céline Bellot.

Between 2000 and 2022, at least 16,368 offense notices were issued to people experiencing homelessness in Quebec.

During the period covered by the first report (2000-2010), an average of 374 infraction reports were issued per year and during the period studied in this report (2013-2022), this average is 1,263 violations, i.e. more three times more, we can read in the research report.

En In 2020, people experiencing homelessness made up at least 20% of people who received a ticket in Quebec City and in 2021, 15.4%, which constitutes an alarming over-representation.

A quote from Extract from the report “The judicialization of homelessness in Quebec: alarming findings”

Open in full screen mode< p class="StyledImageCaptionLegend-sc-57496c44-2 sbxsP">Céline Bellot is a professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Montreal. She is also director of the Profiling Observatory. (Archive photo)

This number was constantly increasing between 2013 and 2020, with a slight decline in 2021, a year marked by the pandemic.

The 2022 figures are incomplete since they only cover the period from January to June, the authors warn.

According to Céline Bellot, this report only documents the tip of the iceberg of the phenomenon of judicialization of homelessness since it was produced at using a single database.

We clearly see that there is targeting, tracking and therefore differential treatment of these people in public space, observes the researcher.

The government of Quebec recognized in its action plan on homelessness that judicialization represents a barrier to escaping homelessness and does not work, recalls Céline Bellot. The information does not seem to have reached Quebec City, she laments.

Despite all this scientific and political consensus on the fact that judicialization is not an answer, we see a strengthening of judicialization in Quebec.

A quote from Céline Bellot, professor at the School of social work at the University of Montreal

And things are not about to improve, according to the researcher, who expects to similar figures for the year 2023.

Neither the City nor the police department seem to have realized that there is an issue and [they] do not want to change their practices. […] We see nothing in the [behavior of] actors [suggesting] that there are changes.

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The authors of the report invite the City of Quebec and the SPVQ to review their approach with regard to people experiencing homelessness. (File photo)

The case of Quebec is also particular, particularly with the acceleration in the number of people experiencing homelessness in Quebec. The fact that this issue does not visibly appear on the radar of stakeholders is also worrying, in the eyes of Céline Bellot.

It's not like that in all cities, notes the co-author of the report.

She and her colleagues are calling for awareness of the phenomenon by the City of Quebec and its police department with a view to stopping the phenomenon.< /p>

They also demand an end to social profiling practices, in particular through the implementation of action plans, and changes to municipal regulations which lead to the judicialization of people experiencing homelessness.

The researchers are also calling for an increase in funding for community organizations that help them.

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