Charlottetown photographer fined for ‘loitering without purpose’ in Quebec City

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A Charlottetown photographer who was handcuffed and detained in Quebec City says his rights were infringed on during the encounter.

John Morris said he was standing on a public sidewalk taking pictures of Chateau Frontenac, a hotel in Quebec’s capital city, on Nov. 2, when police asked him to leave.

Police told him he couldn’t stand on the sidewalk which was close to the U.S. consulate for more than 30 minutes, but Morris said it didn’t make sense to him because it was a public sidewalk.

“I explained that I’m a landscape photographer, so I’m doing my job,” he said.

U.S. Consulate

The police then asked him to provide an ID, but Morris said he declined. That was when the police told him they were going to arrest and charge him, so he brought out his phone to record the interaction when they asked him to put his hands down and then handcuffed him before putting him in the SUV.

“I felt disappointed. I identified myself as a professional photographer,” he said.

John Morris said it was his first time being handcuffed and he’s not going to let this incident change how he does his work. Contributed
John Morris said it was his first time being handcuffed and he’s not going to let this incident change how he does his work. Contributed

Morris said the police told him someone from the U.S. consulate was concerned about him capturing photos that might show parts of the inner building.

“The only way I would ever see, let’s say, something on their desks is if they were holding the papers.”

Morris was subsequently released from the vehicle and fined $230 for loitering without purpose.

The photographer said he had a similar interaction with police officers while working a while ago in New Brunswick. He said police were informed about a man with a gun, which happened to be him — except it was a tripod he was holding. He said the police asked him basic questions and they left.

“It was more diplomatic than the Quebec City police,” he said.

‘Ridiculous’ exchange

An organization that advocates for journalists in Canada said what Morris went through was “ridiculous.”

Brent Jolly, the president of Canadian Association of Journalists, said he fails to understand how a person taking photographs on public property is somehow committing a crime.

“Based on Canadian law, those facts don’t dictate that conclusion. Committing acts of journalism, taking photographs on public property isn’t a crime under no circumstance,” he said.

Brent Jolly, president of Canadian Association of Journalists, an organization that provides support for journalists in Canada said, Morris getting detained and fined by the police for doing his job is ‘ridiculous.’ Contributed
Brent Jolly, president of Canadian Association of Journalists, an organization that provides support for journalists in Canada said, Morris getting detained and fined by the police for doing his job is ‘ridiculous.’ Contributed

Jolly said individuals in positions of authority, including law enforcement and others, are sometimes trying to conceal information from public scrutiny. The ongoing trend of limiting journalists, particularly photojournalists, is becoming increasingly apparent nationwide, he said.

“And in that way, I think it’s a full-frontal assault on our freedoms that we hold true and that are enshrined in our Constitution,” he said.

“CAJ will continue to speak up and support the case of these journalists who are having their rights violated. But, at some point, it makes me wonder, what is the ultimate way? How do we communicate this in a way that public officials and authorities ultimately understand?”

Common complaint

Complaints like this aren’t new to him. He said his office receives similar complaints at least once every day.

“If this is the new standard, where every journalist who goes out into the field to cover a story, has to wonder about, are they going to be detained? Are they going to be imprisoned? I think it speaks very strongly about the culture and the state of press freedom in Canada,” he said.

John Morris was trying to get a perfect shot of this hotel, Chateau Frontenac, when police asked him to leave and later handcuffed him and fined him. - Contributed
John Morris was trying to get a perfect shot of this hotel, Chateau Frontenac, when police asked him to leave and later handcuffed him and fined him. – Contributed

Morris said it was his first time being handcuffed, and he’s not going to let this incident change how he does his work.

“I’m going to chalk it up as an interesting experience,” he said.

As for the fine, he plans to contest it.


Vivian Ulinwa is a reporter with SaltWire in Prince Edward Island. She can be reached by email at [email protected] and followed on X @vivian_ulinwa.

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