As long as you pay…

If you park on the street, beware! I recently learned, by way of a 7am ticket, that it is illegal to park within 5 meters of a stop sign, even if you are completely behind it, not blocking the intersection, nor impeding view of the stop sign. Driving around Montreal, one can easily see thousands of cars parked in similar spaces; a veritable gold mine for police officers short on their quotas. 

Meanwhile, Stationnement de Montreal has hundreds of parking meters that invite drivers to break this law, at a cost of up to $3.00 an hour! Despite this glaring hypocrisy, (including 2 such meters right in front of the court house!) a judge upheld my ticket, suggesting that I, a private citizen, take Stationnement de Montreal for their illegal meter placement. Ha! 

The message is clear: parking within 5m of a stop sign is illegal – unless you pay – either $3.00 an hour, or a flat $52.00 fine. Can someone explain why we put up with this?

Given the shortage of parking spaces in certain areas of Montreal, I don’t believe that Stationnement de Montreal should be forced to remove these parking spaces. What should happen is that this law needs to be changed. Instead of banning all parking within 5 meters of a stop sign, ban all parking that blocks a driver’s view of a stop sign. I even called the Ministry of Transporation. They said “they would look into it.” What has come of that research? Has it even happened? No one knows. I certainly don’t.

This was not the first parking ticket I ever received. It was, however, the first I contested. Whenever I have been ticketed for parking during a maintenance period, I have paid the ticket on the same day, in order to put it behind me, so to speak. This one was too crazy to pay without having my say.

I have asked numerous City of Montreal offices, elected officials, police officers and sargeants why this law was applied, on one occasion in the over 1500 nights I have lived in that area and none could offer an explanation. Thankfully, I did meet one officer who, after needing to look up the offense in his little book because he’d never heard of it before, was candid enough to say that he doesn’t give stupid tickets like that, tickets that do not “ameliore le bilan routier” – improve road safety. My thoughts exactly. The only answer I received from a police supervisor was that “giving tickets or looking the other way is at the discretion of each officer.” What a police-brotherhood answer. I find it sad that a rookie can read the Highway Safety Code one night as a bedtime story and then go out and ticket unsuspecting drivers for infractions that everyone commits but harm no one and that have been consistently overlooked for so long. And don’t even think to say “I’ve never heard of that law” – however obscure it is. A judge will be quick to point out that “ignorance is not a valid defense.”

I get it. This presumption of knowledge is essential to meting out justice in our system. Without this presumption, anyone could parade themselves in front of a judge and cry “I didn’t know it was wrong” and be acquitted – but come on – what about when a money-making service for the city TEACHES us that it’s okay to park in a certain space, in defiance of the laws we are supposed to all be aware of? How can a judge not say “Hmmm.. at the very least, I can see where this would become confusing.”

It’s incredible to me that courts are strictly mete out “justice”-laden $52 fines on obscure traffic violators but we let people go free with unconditional discharges after being found guilty for stealing and assault, never forcing them to pay for their transgression. Oh, and when they do pay, the money goes to the city, not to the victim. I speak from experience.

Again, it’s all about money. Logic, justice, fairness, and common sense be damned. And I ask again: why do we put up with this from our elected officials? from our city? with our tax dollars? It’s time to stand up and demand better.

Anyone?

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3 Comments

  1. You’re more likely to move forward on this by finding an elected official who cares about the issue and can use their position to make changes. Did any of the officials you spoke to care? Also, I’m surprised and disgusted that the judge didn’t see your point.

  2. The problem is that the law is the law and the fact that Montreal’s meters cause people to actually break the law, is not a defense against it. Officers can use their discretion, but in this case the issuing officer, did not, if the view was unobstructed. We likely have all broken this particular law in the past. I have and I never rec’d a ticket for it. Will I do so again knowing what I now know? No! Why take the chance? In any event, as mentioned to you (Mark) I have been in touch with Transports Montreal as Stationnement de Montreal as the judge mentioned actually has no jurisdiction and have asked them to remove the meters that are causing people to break the law. I have long been against having vans, trucks and vehicles parked at corners or obstructing views. In many cases they (not all) they provide a hazard. For what it is worth a Montreal City Councilor informed me last night that BIXI stands had to be moved away from intersections in order to comply with the law. OH! I once received a ticket for parking my car in the same spot for over 24 hrs. The dear Green Onion saw my car parked in the same spot on a Fri and a Mon. He assumed that it was there on Sat/Sun as well, but it wasn’t. I did not bother to fight it as it did not pay to go fight during the day and not make $$.

    • Thank you for your comments, Murray.
      My wish is not to see these offending meters disappear – we all know there’s a parking shortage in Montreal anyway. Rather, I would like to see the law re-written to reflect whatever real concerns prompted this section in the first place. If it’s a matter of ensuring unobstructed view of the stop sign, then forbid tall cars/vans/trucks (over x height) from parking within 5 meters of a stop sign. And as a bonus – it might discourage some people from buying gas-guzzling giant cars.

      Contesting the ticket was my last resort, not my first. I tried to get in touch with the officer who wrote the ticket. When that failed, with their supervisor. When that failed, I went to meet my then city councillor – I lived in Snowdon district. When that failed, I called the Minister of Transportation for Quebec. The aide I spoke with acknowledged “I can see how the city’s meters could make you think it was okay to park there.” Governments have an obligation to follow the law. They are looked to as authority figures and bodies. Their actions teach. Any reasonable doubt must be handled in favour of the citizen. I don’t like the ticket, or the verdict, but I made my case and paid the original fine.

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