St. Joseph’s hortatory: Heaven help Montreal tourists | Marcel Strigberger

By Marcel Strigberger

Law360 Canada (December 23, 2022, 11:22 AM EST) --
Marcel Strigberger
Marcel Strigberger
Itching to travel? Considering a trip to Montreal? The next question then is, can a visitor to Montreal withstand the ordeals of manoeuvring its streets by car?

We recently visited Montreal after a lengthy hiatus. I concluded driving around there is no problem if you don’t mind spending most of your time running the gauntlet of construction and traffic restrictions. They clearly constitute a tort on your vehicle.


Our initial challenge was trying to access our hotel through a maze of orange pylons. We finally got within eye contact and expected we would simply make a right turn and travel about 20 metres to the front door. Then again the Montreal Canadiens probably still expect to win the Stanley Cup.

Our attempt was greeted by a sign reading “Rue barrée.” There was no English version of this roadblock warning. But it did not take a polyglot linguist to know the car is not getting past this Berlin Wall.

While circling the area, I noticed the other end of the street. The entrée was one way; the wrong way. I telephoned the hotel, to find out whether anyone that day had succeeded in checking in. I told the clerk we surrendered. I could not find a white flag handy to wave.

The clerk Jean Guy guided us through an obstacle course, which included a laneway. Probably the existence of this laneway was one of the area’s best kept secrets. Even Waze did not know about it.

The next day we decided to see some sights, including McGill University. Google Maps pointed us in the right direction, but the problem was Google subscribes to the commonly held theory that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points. This geometric theory is a fallacy if you’re driving in Montreal. Although the distance along Sherbrooke Avenue was only one kilometre, at one point you have to make a left turn. Ah huh! It’s not as if the campus is in the middle of the street. Unfortunately.

Firstly we passed McGill, confidently expecting to pull over shortly. All we needed was that one road sign, which allowed you to turn left. Such a sign in Montreal is about as rare as that Stanley Cup.

Eventually we got to the desired side. Now all we needed was a parking spot. No problem if your car complies with the parking regulation signs and has a mandatory red square sticker. I suppose local inhabitants obtain these coveted stickers. I don’t know what happens if you dare park there sans red square sticker. I visualized a parking control officer resembling the Incredible Hulk angrily descending upon my delinquent car and stuffing it into one of those ubiquitous giant Montreal potholes. Nobody would ever find it there.

We decided to soldier on. After all we did see McGill University via a drive by. Good enough.

Further confusing were name changes which could throw off an unsuspecting visitor. What happened to University Avenue? At one point it became Boulevard Robert Bourassa. I also recall a major street called Dorchester, now René Levèsque. I don’t know who Dorchester was, but I do recall former premier René Levèsque was hardly a role model for our youth, being a chain smoker. Who lobbied for this name change? Imperial Tobacco?

The law

I submit that Montreal is liable for the intentional tort of false imprisonment. The city without justification is virtually putting your vehicle into a straitjacket.

I also see a Charter breach. Section 10 reads, “Everyone has the right on arrest or detention: a) To be informed promptly of the reason therefor.”

I submit that this section is not complied with when you are stuck in your car facing a road sign reading, “Ha,ha,ha”.

Then the city’s Draconian restrictions also make it liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress. We attempted to access a couple of restaurants but at best we got to wave at them from across the street. This added a new dimension to the COVID days of curb service (but without the service). 

The city is also probably violating some convention, like the Geneva Convention, contrary to international law. If your car wants to get through anywhere, all you should have to do is disclose its make, model and serial number. I hear a couple of inspectors from the International Court in The Hague have recently arrived here to investigate the situation. I understand to date they are still in their rental car trying to find their way to their hotel.

In the city’s defence, I will submit that the one thing that did not change was St. Viateur Bagels. It does not look much different than when it first opened in 1957. We attended and what luck! We found a parking spot. No red square sticker necessary. But of course, man cannot live by bagels alone.


Montreal’s sights are super, but you are buying agony hoping to see them via your car. For divine assistance you may consider attending the iconic St. Joseph’s Oratory to light a candle. Also a challenge. I will caution you that we did drive by the Oratory and noticed that even the roadway up to the entrance was under construction.

Do we see a class action on the horizon?

Bon voyage

Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. His book Boomers, Zoomers, and Other Oomers: A Boomer-biased Irreverent Perspective on Aging is now available in paper and e-book versions where books are sold. Visit Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

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