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photo essay

In Montreal and Quebec City, photojournalist Renaud Philippe went out on New Year’s Eve and the nights that followed to see how Quebeckers are adapting to, or raging against, Premier François Legault’s latest lockdown

Montreal, Dec. 31, 2021

8:58 p.m.: A group of friends gather to celebrate the end of 2021 at Jeanne-Mance Park. In a little more than an hour, they will have to be off the streets because of a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, an effort to slow the spread of Omicron in a week when Quebec's daily case numbers hit record highs.

9:31 p.m.: A group of friends set off fireworks. Quebeckers last faced curfews from Jan. 9 to May 28 of 2021, and Premier François Legault's public approval remained high because he was seen as acting decisively. This time, Mr. Legault gave only a day's notice that the curfew would begin, which drew widespread criticism.

9:52 p.m.: Streets look mostly deserted with minutes to go before the curfew begins. Quebeckers were bombarded with emergency alerts on their mobile phones in advance of the new restrictions, which also prohibit personal gatherings at home.

11:59 p.m.: The distant sounds of fireworks and a few 'Happy New Year!' shouts are the only signs that 2022 is beginning.


Montreal, Jan. 1, 2022

9:49 p.m.: François Amalega Bitondo, one of Montreal's most prolific anti-vaccine and anti-masking advocates, leads a demonstration before the day's curfew begins.

10:14 p.m.: Police prepare to meet 100 or so protesters as people look on from nearby windows. Breaking the curfew is punishable by fines of $1,000 to $6,000 for adults, and $500 for teens aged 14 and older.

10:49 p.m.: Police lead one of the demonstrators away. By the night's end, officers issued 57 tickets.

11:34 p.m.: A man walks a dog, which Quebeckers are allowed to do during the curfew as long as they stay within one kilometre of their residence. Originally, dog walkers weren't exempt as they had been under previous lockdowns, but the Legault government changed course.


Quebec City, Jan. 2, 2022

10:32 p.m.: Tables are taped off in a closed restaurant. Indoor dining is also forbidden under Quebec's latest COVID-19 restrictions.

10:47 p.m.: The afterimage of a man taking part in a rare meeting in the middle of the curfew, where the discussion turned to the mental-health effects of being stuck inside.


Quebec City, Jan. 4, 2022

10:28 p.m.: Some Christmas lights are still up on 3rd Avenue in the neighbourhood of Limoilou. In big cities such as the provincial capital, the curfew is being strongly enforced, though cash-strapped smaller communities sometimes face tough decisions about when and how to do so.

10:59 p.m.: Rue Saint-Jean, one of the city's oldest streets, is usually packed with tourists at this time of year, but now it's empty.

11:59 p.m.: A sign on the highway warns that the curfew is in effect.