Motion tabled to prevent Montreal police from using tear gas

A press conference was held in Montreal today to discuss the chemical weapon that has been banned in wartime but is used regularly against civilians.

Montreal city councilor Marvin Rotrand convened a press conference this morning with human rights lawyers, representatives from community, student and civil liberties groups and one fellow politician to discuss removing tear gas from the arsenal of Montreal police (SPVM). A motion to implement a ban on the chemical weapon, tabled by Rotrand and seconded by fellow independent councilor Giuliana Fumagalli, will be debated in city council on Dec. 14 or 15.

tear gas

Rotrand said that while the year-end stats on tear gas use in Montreal have yet to be released for 2020, there is documentation of police pepper-spraying and gassing during at least one Black Lives Matter protest in the spring — a particularly reckless tactic during the COVID-19 pandemic. Records show that the SPVM used tear gas four times in 2019 and 201 times in 2012, the year of frequent student demonstrations (Printemps érable).

One of the speakers, Matthew Green, an NDP MP for Hamilton, Ontario, has proposed a federal ban on tear gas in Parliament, and circulated a petition on the issue, which currently has over 11,000 signatures. Green stated that the chemical weapon can cause “death, miscarriage and significant long-term health effects” on those who ingest it. Green also said that, aside from infringing on the population’s health and human rights, tear gas has been found to be an ineffective tool for crowd control, creating panic and confusion and sometimes provoking violence.

Human rights lawyer Vincent Wong said that banning tear gas has to be part of a larger movement to demilitarize the police and reimagine police response to everything from peaceful assembly to handling crises that need to be de-escalated.

As Rotrand noted on Twitter when the conversation about defunding and disarming the Montreal police began, tear gas has been banned from wartime use, and bans on the substance on civilians in other countries date back to 1929.

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