A professional photographer hailing from Charlottetown, P.E.I., found himself on the receiving end of a $230 fined for what authorities deemed as “loitering” while he was photographing the renowned Château Frontenac hotel in Quebec City.
John Morris recounted his experience, explaining that he was positioned on a public sidewalk near the U.S. consulate, opposite the Château Frontenac. He was patiently waiting for the right moment to capture the iconic hotel in the perfect lighting, specifically waiting for some clouds to enhance his shot. However, his photography session was abruptly interrupted when police officers approached him and ordered him to vacate the area.
According to Morris, the officers informed him that he couldn’t remain standing outside for an extended period. Perplexed, Morris stated, “It’s a public sidewalk. I’m not disturbing anybody, not blocking any views. I’m out of the way.”
In an attempt to comprehend his alleged wrongdoing, Morris insisted that the police explain the offense he was committing before providing his identification. The situation escalated when he took out his phone to record the interaction, resulting in his handcuffing and, subsequently, the issuance of a fine for loitering, all taking place in the back of a police cruiser.
Expressing his disbelief, Morris, who earns a livelihood through photography and produces various photographic products, including books, calendars, and puzzles, said, “It’s absolutely crazy that you would be given a fine for waiting for clouds on a public sidewalk. I’m a professional photographer. I do this for a living.”
Unwilling to accept the fine, Morris has pleaded not guilty and intends to contest it. He raised concerns about the ambiguity surrounding public sidewalk regulations in Canada.
Police’s justification for Morris’s detention was reportedly linked to a call from the U.S. consulate, expressing their apprehension that he might capture photos from inside their building. Earlier in the day, a consulate guard had approached Morris, requesting him to leave the area, but he asserted his right to be on a public sidewalk and take photographs.
Sandra Dion, a spokesperson for Quebec City police, confirmed that they received a 911 call regarding a “suspicious man near the American consulate.” She explained that officers arrived at the scene, determined that Morris had violated a municipal bylaw, and requested his identification. However, Morris declined to provide his identity, leading to his arrest and subsequent fine.
Dion refrained from disclosing Morris’s name or specifying the exact bylaw he had violated. She also did not elucidate the circumstances under which police would arrest individuals photographing near the consulate, stating that it’s not a common occurrence but has happened five times this year.
Dion did not clarify whether the consulate had control over the sidewalks or the nearby park. The U.S. Embassy in Ottawa declined to comment on the matter, emphasizing their commitment to the safety and security of their personnel and visitors, without divulging information about the 911 call or security protocols at the U.S. Consulate General.