Watch Live: CityNews at Six Montreal

Homeless advocates urging gov’t for support after man outside past curfew dies

“I hope this man’s death is not in vain,” says John Tessier from Montreal’s Open Door shelter, after a client died over the weekend. The man was found outside in a public toilet past Quebec’s 8 p.m. curfew. Alyssia Rubertucci reports.

By Alyssia Rubertucci

MONTREAL – Montreal’s homeless community and advocates are mourning the loss of one of their own.

Raphael Andre was an Inuu man who was outside past Quebec’s COVID-19 curfew. He died in a public bathroom Sunday.

“He was a good friend. He comes around to Inuit people and almost every day he shows up with a beer for me,” said Thomas, a client at the Open Door Shelter.

Andre was a frequent client of the Open Door shelter in Montreal’s Plateau neighbourhood. The shelter recently reopened after being closed for three weeks for plumbing issues and a COVID-19 outbreak.

READ MORE: Montreal’s homeless are being left out in the cold past curfew

In December the shelter started opening 24/7, an initiative greenlit by the city for the winter period. But under public health rules, when Quebec’s 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew started, it had to start closing at 9:30 p.m.

“People like Raphael were able to spend the night here–now we close at 9:30… We every night had to force this man out into the street where he ended up dying in a public toilet. If we were open, he would have been here sleeping,” said John Tessier, Interventions Coordinator at the Open Door.

“It was heartbreaking for us to put him out in the cold. We went home on Friday and Monday he’s not here.”

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said in a statement she “terribly saddened” by Andre’s death.

“I offer my sincere condolences to his loved ones and to his entire community,” she said.

“Regarding the Open Door heat stop, our two commissioners have been in communication with our partners for several days to allow the reopening of the heat stop to ensure a safe place for people roaming the Milton-Parc sector at night.”

Following an evaluation of the situation, a list of 13 recommendations was submitted to Open Door’s management and board of directors to prevent future outbreaks and to protect the clientele and shelter staff, said the CIUSSS West-Central Montreal, the public health branch overseeing the Open Door shelter, in a statement.

“The CIUSSS is still awaiting the implementation of these measures at the Open Door. CIUSSS West-Central Montreal is ready to recommend the reopening of the warming centre at night if the sanitary measures will be applied and maintained to the height of MSSS directives,” the statement continued.

“It is essential that these measures are in place to protect the health of the users, the employees of the shelter and all Montrealers.”

Tessier, however, says the Open Door has received no such list

“We have implemented our own safety measures like physical barriers and they have never come in to check, even though we ask them.”

The city’s homeless population is not exempt from the province’s curfew and in the first weekend, one was ticketed $1,550.

READ MORE: Police issue fines as Quebec curfew takes effect, cases continue to rise

The SPVM handed out 353 tickets related to the curfew in the last week, including to at least six homeless people, which is why homeless advocates across Montreal are calling for more resources.

“If you send in the army, it means they could pitch these warming tents during the curfew. They would also bring their own personnel. We don’t have any staff,” said Nakuset, executive director at the Native Women’s shelter, adding COVID-19 has put some of their staff out of commission.

“I had two staff that were there this weekend helping out with the recent death. They are really traumatized.”

The circumstances of Andre’s death are being investigated by the coroner’s office.

“How many Indigenous people does it take to pass on before the government does something?” said Nakuset.

“I would hope this man’s death is not in vain,” added Tessier.

Top Stories

Top Stories