LAVAL, Que. — One of the organizers of a hockey practice event at the Colisée de Laval in Laval, Que. speaks after police raided the event on Sunday evening.
According to several reports, the Laval police responded to a call from residents of the St-Vincent-de-Paul district, where the arena is located, about a possible illegal assembly. Neighbors said they saw many cars around the sports complex.
“The police version of events was not completely accurate,” Adel Akkouche told Postmedia News, adding that organizers took great care to ensure there were small bubbles of seven children in each of the spaces used during the event.
Akkouche explained that he rented the Colosseum because it has several separate rooms, allowing organizers to respect the distancing measures put in place by the province.
During the event, there were three groups of seven children: one group on the ice rink, one group in a conference room and a third group in the gymnasium, all with monitors to ensure compliance with distancing measures and of hygiene. Any parents who wanted to stay were brought to a separate room showing a football game. Everyone who entered the facility had their vaccination passports checked.
“The doors were locked so no one else entered the bubbles,” he added.
Akkouche, a restaurant owner, organizes minor hockey events in his spare time. He said the event ended at 9 p.m. so that everyone had enough time to get home before curfew.
He said organizers are confident the event meets guidelines set by the province late last year, which allow some indoor activities to be held. For example, free skating and hockey scrimmages are permitted in arenas that can accommodate up to 25 people.
“Everything we did was legal.”
Indeed, several Montreal arenas offer such activities and ask participants to register at least 48 hours in advance on the City’s website. Free swimming and other activities are also offered.
“Everything we did was legal,” he said. “It was an evening to take care of the health and well-being of our children. It was 30 minutes of training, practice and learning, all while keeping these kids mentally and physically active.
“If the city can have up to 25 people inside an arena, I don’t understand why I can’t have a few people on the ice.
Police told attendees they were attending a rally and identified the 37 people there. The case will be referred to the Quebec Crown Attorney’s office to see if charges will be laid or fines imposed.
Akkouche said he expects that after reviewing the facts of the case, the Crown Attorney’s office will not lay charges. If so, however, he swears to fight them. He said he organized the event because, with schools closed and organized events cancelled, children need a way to stay active.
“The kids were so happy,” he said. “You don’t know how much these children are suffering, and we have tried to help them.”
Akkouche added that if he was, in fact, in violation of the rules, it means the rules set out by the province in the last round of restrictions are unclear.
“The rules are not clear; no one seems to know what they are.
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