Protestors come together against COVID-19 confinement measures

Protesters demand Quebec government consider mental health repercussions of quarantine

Around 100 people took to Dorchester Sq. on Nov. 28 to protest the lockdown measures, such as the closure of gyms and the restrictions put on the service industry, implemented by the provincial government as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A live DJ played house music for the first hour of the noon demonstration. The majority wore masks, but most were not respecting social distancing guidelines. Some held signs displaying messages like “Lockdowns don’t work!”, “All businesses are essential”, and, “Chances of surviving COVID-19: 99.86%—Chances of surviving suicide: 0%”. 

There have been a total of 370,278 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, and 12,032 deaths. This would make the survival rate in Canada approximately 96.8 per cent. In Quebec, there have been a total of 141,038 cases and 7,033 deaths bringing the province's survival rate to approximately 95.1 per cent. 

The speakers said it was not an anti-mask protest and that protesters were expected to wear masks and respect social distancing guidelines.

There were approximately 25 SPVM officers monitoring the area on foot. There was also an SPVM van circulating the area equipped with a speaker reminding protesters to wear a mask and respect health safety guidelines. 

Protester organized emphasized that this was not an anti-mask protest, but a protest advocating for mental health awareness and the re-opening of businesses. Photo Thomas Quinn

“I have had people who have called me and told me that their friends have committed suicide [during the pandemic] and that they’re happy that we’re doing this movement because they’re struggling significantly being confined in four walls,” said Matthew Ackad, a Concordia University alum and main organizer of the protest. “[This] protest is focused on the harsh lockdown measures and the effects it has on mental health.” 

Ackad said it was difficult for restaurant owners to comply during the summer. He added that the Quebec government should have invested the $5 million they invested into the Office québécois de la langue française into having proper ventilation systems in schools. He thinks the government is choosing to let students freeze in their classrooms instead. He was referring to the English Montreal School Board instructing its schools to periodically open windows in classrooms to avoid air stagnating which could increase the infection risk of COVID-19.

The toll on people's mental health has been felt across the province by younger members of the Quebec population, according to a study. Roughly 30 per cent of those who replied to a survey between the ages of 19-24 have experienced some kind of COVID-19-related psychological stress. When considering the youth of Montreal, that number skyrockets to 45 per cent among those aged 19-29.

Elisa Clementz, another organizer, was the first speaker. Clementz worked in the hospitality industry and lost her job due to lockdown measures. She emphasized the impact lockdown has on people’s mental health. 

Organizers handed out green ribbons to show solidarity for mental health awareness. Photo Thomas Quinn

“When you don’t have money to put food on your plate you tend to be depressed,” she said. Organizers handed out green ribbons to demonstrators to show solidarity with mental health awareness.

The message of the protest, according to Clementz, is not necessarily against the lockdown measures. She explained that the purpose of the protest is for people whose industries have been affected by COVID-19 to be heard and included in the conversation. “I’d rather use the word unfair than harsh in regards to the lockdown measures,” she explained. “They have to be harsh in some ways because we are in a pandemic. This is a reality.”

Read more: Mutual aid emerges as saving grace in the face of the pandemic

More than any other age demographic, young Montrealers are financially at risk with nearly 23 per cent currently or expecting to have trouble paying rent and 30 per cent struggling to even get groceries.

On Nov. 28, Quebec hit a new record in regards to COVID-19 infections reaching 1,480 new cases in one day. In Montreal, there was an increase of 429 cases in one day. In total, there have been approximately 7,000 people who have died of COVID-19 in Quebec thus far.