Raphaël André homeless Montreal death

The death of Raphaël André highlights the plight of Montreal’s homeless

The 51-year-old Innu man froze just steps away from a shelter that used to be open 24/7.

Following the death of Raphaël André in Montreal on Saturday night, critics — including staff at the Open Door homeless shelter where he spent a lot of time — are decrying the municipal and provincial regulations that are keeping the establishment closed overnight.

Raphaël André

André, who was a 51-year-old Innu man originally from the Matimekush-Lac John community in northern Quebec, froze to death overnight in a portable toilet at Milton and Parc, steps away from the shelter that used to be open 24/7. The Open Door closed temporarily following a COVID-19 outbreak and plumbing issue in December, and since reopening in the new year, the shelter has been forced to remain closed between 9:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. André was present at the Open Door on Saturday, the day prior to his death, and was seen by staff building snowmen nearby.

“He was here every day last week at 9:30 p.m. asking to stay — he wanted to stay,” said John Tessier, an Open Door intervention worker, in an interview with CBC. “He would’ve been here overnight and he wouldn’t have had to die alone in the toilet.”

Nakuset, cofounder of Resilience Montreal and executive director at the Native Women’s Shelter, has been asking repeatedly for the army to intervene to help the homeless in Montreal, to no avail.

Nakuset on the death of Raphaël André and the plight of the homeless during COVID-19 and the Quebec curfew

In response to André’s death, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante is speaking this hour about the issue of protecting the homeless during COVID-19.

“The reality of people experiencing homelessness is very worrying. At 11:15 am, in front of the Town Hall, I will meet with the press to make demands on the Government of Quebec to better protect the most vulnerable.”

—Valérie Plante

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