A Pierrefonds garage owner is refusing to close his doors after Montreal police demanded he cease all operations following the provincial government’s orders to shut down during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Claudio Gentile’s Autoworx garage on Monk Street received an official warning from police officers on Wednesday after it was deemed a non-priority service.
“I was stunned. I was treated like I was committing a crime,” Gentile said.
Gentile was reportedly told not to continue his operations, but he has refused to follow those orders, saying he believes his business is a necessity because his garage services the vehicles of several essential service employees.
Hospital worker Dominique Lavigne says the garage is necessary for her and others who are still working and using their vehicles.
“It’s not fair. It’s an emergency — I would not come if it was not an emergency, ” Lavigne said.
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Gentile says nurses, store clerks and pharmacists frequent his business looking for major repairs on breaks and engines.
“It makes no sense not to fix their car. They need their car,” he said.
Montreal police would not comment on this particular case but said they are issuing warnings to garage owners who are offering non-essential services such as oil and tire changes.
Those are services Gentile says he is not providing during the government shut down.
Labour lawyer Marianne Plamondon says Gentile is operating in a legal grey zone.
“As long as they have the evidence they are doing repairs for essential services then they clearly are falling into essential work, and they need that confirmation from the government,” Plamondon said.
The provincial list of businesses allowed to operate amid the pandemic includes service stations, noting mechanical repairs on cars for essential industries are permitted.
Plamondon suggests Gentile ask to be permitted to work — permission Gentile says he doesn’t need because of the service he is providing is for front-line workers.
“I’m going to work because I have the right to work,” Gentile said.
Businesses deemed non-essential that continue to operate amid the pandemic risk facing fines that start at $1,000 and can go up to $6,000 for going against the government order.
The government decree on business closures is scheduled to be in place until April 13, with the possibility it may be extended.
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