Montreal bylaw allows libraries to evict patrons over 'personal hygiene' issues

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A new bylaw in Montreal could allow some libraries in the city to kick people out for poor hygiene, and even fine them.

The new code of conduct, which comes into force Jan. 1, prohibits people from blocking library doors, sleeping inside, threatening others or bringing in bedbugs.

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But the boroughs of Ville-Marie, Anjou and Sud-Ouest added an article that gives the library the right to eject or fine people with “personal hygiene that inconveniences staff and other users.”

Fines start at $350 for a first offence, and go up to $2,000 for a second offence and $3,000 for subsequent infractions.

Valérie Plante, the mayor of Montreal, tweeted out that the city will “modify the wording of the new provision in the library regulations so that it reflects our desire for inclusion in all spaces in the City.” She added: “Under no circumstances does discrimination have any place in Montreal.”

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But in the same tweet she noted: “it must be recognized that library staff experience delicate and complex situations, which require better supervision. We will provide a support guide to managers which will allow them to apply the adjusted regulations at all times in a humane, sensitive and respectful manner.”

Ericka Alneus, the city councillor who is responsible for culture and heritage on the executive committee, told the CBC that the bylaw will only be applied in what he called “extreme measures,” adding: “No matter your social status, you’re welcome in all the 45 libraries of the city of Montreal.”

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But John Tessier, founder of not-for-profit group Advocacy for Montreal, which assists people experiencing homelessness, called the policy an attack on the homeless.

“People just want to survive and they’re trying to first and foremost get out of the cold, and libraries normally are a big space,” he told the website “People can go in there, be quiet, be unnoticed, which is all they really want to do. They don’t go there to purposefully inconvenience others.”

Besides, he said: “Who’s going to determine what’s bad hygiene?”

He also noted that people on social assistance wouldn’t be able to afford to pay the fines in any case, adding: “You’re making poverty illegal. It’s just abhorrent.”

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