The shortage of special constables is greatly disrupting the activities of the Montreal courthouse this week. Lawyers, defendants and victims still came up against closed doors on Wednesday morning in front of nearly a dozen courtrooms. The union refers to a “hemorrhage” of staff.

“Lack of constables. Firearms files referred to room 3.02. »

“Lack of constables. Lawyers in Teams only. Thank you for your collaboration. »

“Lack of constables. Role of 6.06 referred to room 5.06. »

These messages written on sheets glued with adhesive tape sat on Wednesday morning on the door of room 5.06 of the Montreal courthouse. From the outside, you could see a judge of the Court of Quebec on the bench. However, the room was closed to the public for lack of special constables. An almost unprecedented situation.

A little further on, still on the fifth floor of the courthouse, citizens were pacing or staring at their phones, leaning against the wall, waiting for a special constable to show up to open their courtroom. Constables were so scarce on Wednesday that prosecutors rejoiced at the sight of such a peace officer.

At least three courtrooms of the Court of Quebec were closed Wednesday morning for lack of constables. Activities in five other rooms were suspended or disrupted. A judge even decided to allow a trial to be held without the presence of a constable in the room.

On Tuesday, a preliminary investigation into a pimping case could not proceed in the absence of a constable, forcing the complainant and the witnesses to wait a long time, in vain. They will have to return later to the courthouse to testify at this trying stage.

“We’re hitting a wall. There is a break in service. We are no longer able to maintain the safety of citizens and court personnel because of the lack of constables. It worries us a lot, “said Franck Perales, president of the Syndicate of Special Constables of the Government of Quebec, in an interview.

Special constables should not be confused with simple security guards. Constables are peace officers, like police officers, and are trained at the École nationale de police du Québec in Nicolet. They have a firearm and can make arrests. Despite everything, they are paid $59,000 a year, a salary much lower than in the police services.

“We are the lowest paid constables in Canada and Quebec. It’s the hemorrhage. Since December, 11 constables have left. In such a short time, it’s huge. There have been 200 departures since 2018 among the constables, but we can’t get the upper hand. The government hired 200 recruits and was unable to keep them. They left for better skies,” says Franck Perales.

Negotiations have been at an impasse for three years now, despairs the president of the union. “We’re not asking for the moon, just being competitive. But we are faced with a government that does not seem to be listening. If we hit a wall, it’s not because we haven’t sounded the alarm,” he concludes.