A Quebec Man Risks His Own Life by Electing to Spend Four Days in a Hellhole Prison Rather Than to Give Up His Six Elderly Cats
|Sylvain Brunette with One of His Cats|
"Je ne veux pas partir avant eux, j'ai peur pour leur avenir."
-- Sylvain Brunette
At times it is difficult to determine whether it is cats per se or their owners that the species' detractors detest the most. Regardless of whichever scenario is the closest to the truth, there cannot be any denying that the independence and open-mindedness exhibited by both groups rankles a world that is dominated primarily by authoritarians and sycophants.
C'est-à-dire, most men only have any regard whatsoever for those beings and things that they can exploit, abuse, and corrupt to the hilt. With that being the case, it naturally follows that they also do not brook any dissent.
An especially apt example of that mentality in action is to be found in how horribly the authorities and residents of tiny Franklin, sixty-eight kilometers south of Montréal and near the border with the États-Unis, are treating fifty-four-year-old Sylvain Brunette and his six, sixteen-year-old resident felines. Most outrageously of all, on November 6th three gendarmes showed up at his house and carted him away to Prison de Bordeaux in the Montréal arrondissement of Ahustic-Cartierville.
That extraordinary exercise of legal and political muscle was in response to his failure to pay fines levied at him totaling C$1,208 for not only owning five cats over the legal limit in Franklin but also for feeding others that are homeless. The petit fait that some of those fines dated back to 2013 certainly did not help his case.
"I have no business paying fines for kittens," he later declared to the CBC on November 26th. (See "Quebec Cat Lover Sent to Jail after Refusing to Give Up His Pets.") "I find that really stupid."
While that doubtlessly is true, he also had other motives for not anteing up and the most pressing of which could have been a lack of wherewithal considering that he lives on social assistance. He additionally appears to be a scofflaw in that he spent an unspecified amount of time interned at Prison de Bordeaux fifteen years earlier for failing to make good on a parking ticket issued to him.
Although an unidentified municipal court judge originally had sentenced him to fifty-four days in the sneezer, he was sprung after serving slightly less than four when family members came forward and ponied up C$1,409. Press reports have not spelled out the specifics but presumably that total covered not only his fines but interest and court costs as well.
He subsequently has pledged to repay the full amount to his relatives in installments of C$60 a month but, other than that concession, he remains defiant. "Je ne veux pas partir avant eux, j'ai peur pour leur avenir," he declared to Le Journal de Montréal on November 26th. (See "Peine de cinquante et quatre jours de prison pour ses chats.")
In that regard, his trepidations cannot in any way be understated. First of all, by simply retaining custody of them he remains in defiance of a city law and that can only lead to either additional fines or, tant pis, the outright seizure of them.
Secondly, elderly cats are notoriously difficult to rehome and should the authorities ever get their hands on them, they in all likelihood would waste little time in snuffing out their lives. Therefore, unless he can persuade either a lawyer or an animal rights group to take his case on a pro bono basis, it would appear that the only option left open to him would be to leave Franklin.
He also is unlikely to refrain from coming to the assistance of homeless cats in extremis. "L' autre jour, il y avait un chat avec un plomb sur lui, j'ai enlevé le plomb, désinfecté sa plaie et je lui ai fait un bandage," he disclosed to Le Journal de Montréal. "Depius que je suis petit que j'ai une passion pour les animaux."
As commendable as all of that may be, sooner or later an ailurophobe is going to rat him out to the authorities for either feeding or medicating homeless cats and additional fines are going to ensue. If, on the other hand, he should abruptly stop caring for them he would be in effect initialing their death warrants because not only is food extremely difficult to come by during Montréal's long and grueling winters but veterinary care is totally out of the question as far as impecunious cats are concerned.
|Amanda Di Pancrazio's Lost Cat Poster for Gizmo|
Contacted by the CBC, Franklin Mayor Suzanne Yelle Blair pleaded ignorance of the entire cause célèbre and that in itself is odd given not only that there are only seventeen-hundred residents in the entire city but the plight of Brunette and his cats has been chronicled by the media. It nevertheless is entirely conceivable that his newfound notoriety may have bought him and his cats some breathing room but that is unlikely to endure for very long in that as soon as the hubbub surrounding them abates the authorities likely will once again strike and this time around they will arrive as thieves in the night and with deadly consequences.
Press reports have failed to disclose who attended to the needs of his cats while he was in jail and in that light he surely must be fully aware that even if the authorities should refrain from seizing them, they cannot provide for themselves. The only obvious way therefore that he can ensure their well-being is to stay out of prison even if that entails paying the fines levied against him.
On top of concerns about their welfare, Brunette also has to be worried about his own safety in that another sojourn, no matter how brief, at Prison de Bordeaux could very well spell the end of him. Although the institution is touted as a minimum security facility for both those awaiting trial as well as those serving sentences of less than two years, Brunette paints a bleak picture of it as an earthly hellhole where overcrowding, violence, and drug use and trafficking are the norms.
With that being the case, it is not surprising that it is the inmates who run the asylum as opposed to its nominal overseer, the Quebec Ministry of Public Security. "Dès le lendemain de mon arrivée, le comité de détenus m'a accueilli pour m'expliquer le fonctionnement de la place, j'avais peur, ils sont épeurants," he explained to Le Journal de Montéal.
This comité de détenus also hogged a lion's share of the daily food rations and that in turn left very little for him and the other inmates to eat. It was, however, the threats and violence that unnerved Brunette the most and necessitated in him being forced to walk with his back to the wall so as to ward off assaults from behind.
"Les gars sont gros, sont grands et méchants," he told Le Journal de Montréal. "J'ai vécu de multiples agressions."
In his defense, Brunette has raised several salient points. Perhaps most important of all, he was ratted out to the authorities by an unidentified neighbor that he foolishly had taken into his confidence by confiding to that individual that he had six cats.
That is an altogether too familiar pattern that plays itself out seemingly all the time at varying locations around the world. In the United States, for example, it is almost always cat-hating neighbors who inform on roaming cats to the authorities who in turn dispatch trigger-happy cops who put bullets in their heads. (See Cat Defender post of September 1, 2016 entitled "The Legal and Political Establishment in a Small Pennsylvania Backwater Closes Ranks and Pulls Out All the Stops in Order to Save the Job and Liberty of the Bloodthirsty Cop Who Murdered Sugar.")
Secondly, Brunette believes himself to have been the victim of selective law enforcement and prosecution. "On est à la campagne, mon voisin a plusieurs chiens, un autre a plusieurs chats sur ses terres et ils ne se sont jamais retrouvés en prison," he groused to Le Journal de Montréal.
Thirdly, he is perturbed by the grossly unfair manner in which his cats are being treated. "Oui, j'ai six chats, mais ils restent toujours à l'intérieur de ma maison," he freely admitted to Le Journal de Montréal. "Ils dérangent qui?"
All of that in turn has left him feeling very much like a martyr. "...Il y a une chose que je sais, c'est que jamais je ne ferais mal à personne et je serais le premier à sauver un humain et également le premier à sauver un animal," he vowed to Le Journal de Montréal.
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once observed that individuals are best punished for their virtues and that most definitely has proven to be the case with Brunette. "Imaginez, moi j'etais là (prison) pour avoir gardé mes chats et je ne ferais pas de mal à une mouche," is how that he summed up the absurdity of his incarceration to Le Journal de Montréal.
|Self-Professed Cat Killer and All-Around Scumbag Stéphane Gendron|
As patently unfair as what is being done to Brunette and his cats in Franklin may be, it is merely one episode in an ongoing worldwide assault upon the liberties of both cats and their owners. For instance, in addition to ownership restrictions, many jurisdictions now mandate that cats be licensed, sterilized, and have cancer-causing microchips implanted in them. Other jurisdictions have relegated them to second class citizens of this planet by mandating that they be locked up indoors at all times.
It is homeless cats, however, that always have been on the receiving end of the most outrageous and monstrous treatment of all. Even in this supposedly enlightened age, they are still largely regarded as being unfit to even exist.
In furtherance of that inhumane and morally indefensible objective, anti-feeding laws have proliferated not only in Franklin but elsewhere as well. For example, in 2007 Janice L. Rolfe of Grandview Heights, Ohio, was arrested for showing compassion for a cat named Fluffy. (See Cat Defender post of February 26, 2007 entitled "Charged with Feeding a Feral Cat Named Fluffy, Retired Ohio English Teacher Beats the Rap.")
Others, such as eighty-one-year-old Jeanne Ambler of Temple Terrace, Florida, have been threatened with eviction from their apartments for doing likewise. (See Cat Defender post of August 2, 2010 entitled "Old, Poor, and Sickly, Jeanne Ambler Is Facing Eviction for Feeding a Trio of Hungry Cats.")
The slugs and moral degenerates who run the show at Cornell University even stooped so low as to fire John Beck for feeding homeless cats on its sprawling upstate New York campus. (See Cat Defender post of June 14, 2006 entitled "Kindhearted Dairyman, Sacked for Feeding Feral Cats, Files $20 Million Lawsuit Against Cornell University.")
Even so much as attempting to rescue a cat trapped inside the walls of a building earned Chris Muth of Brooklyn a six-day stay in a mental hospital. (See Cat Defender post of August 4, 2008 entitled "Brooklyn Man Gets Locked Up in a Nuthouse and Then Loses Digs, Job, and Honey All for Attempting to Save His Friend's Cat, Rumi.")
To their eternal credit, however, some fans of the species steadfastly refuse to be intimidated by the authorities regardless of either how daunting the obstacles or severe the penalties. For example, fifty-five-year-old Hannelore Schmedes of the Mahlum section of Bockenem, thirty kilometers southeast of Hannover in Niedersachsen, was forced to spend thirty-five days at the Justizvollzuganstalt für Frauen in Hildesheim in 2010 for shoplifting €100 worth of food in order to feed her twelve resident felines.
While she was incarcerated, Tierschutz Hildesheim not only confiscated her cats but also a pair of dogs that belonged to her as well. It then adopted out two of the cats and one of the dogs while simultaneously sticking her with a bill for €400 for feeding and housing her remaining ten felines and one canine.
"Ich habe noch nie etwas gestohlen," she later said in her defense. "Aber jetzt wusste ich mir keinen anderen Rat." (See Cat Defender post of February 11, 2011 entitled "Disabled Former Casino Worker Is Sent to Jail for Shoplifting Food in Order to Feed Her Twelve Cats.")
In 2013, forty-eight-year-old Mamoru Demizu of Izumi in Osaka Prefecture was arrested and charged with stealing the equivalent of £112,000 in cash and jewels during the course of thirty-two burglaries that he committed in order to purchase food for the one-hundred-twenty homeless cats that he had taken under his care. As that staggering grocery bill indicates, he most definitely was not feeding them cheap kibble but rather a gourmet diet consisting of fresh fish and chicken that cost him £148 per day.
"He said he was happiest when he rubbed his cheek against the cats," an unidentified police officer told The Telegraph of London on December 12, 2013. (See "Cat Burglar: Japanese Man Steals £112,000 to Feed His One-Hundred-Twenty Cats.")
Although anti-cat sentiment has reached a fever pitch just about everywhere, that is particularly the case in and around Montréal. For instance, in May of 2013 the authorities in the arrondissement of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve threatened to fine Amanda Di Pancrazio C$500 for posting four-hundred Lost Cat posters.
|A Campaign Poster for Humbert|
Her beloved Gizmo had disappeared in April and it, unfortunately, is not known if she ever was able to locate him. Like Brunette, however, she remained defiant in face of the opposition that she faced and vowed not to take down the posters. (See CTV of Montreal, May 7, 2013, "Woman Threatened with $500 Fine for Posting Pictures of Lost Cat.")
By taking such a cruel and inhumane attitude toward Di Prancrazio and Gizmo, the authorities in Montréal were imitating the utterly reprehensible example set by the politicians in the north London borough of Haringey who in 2008 went after fifty-three-year-old Eileen Miles for fly-posting the neighborhood in search for her missing cat, Ginger Boy. (See Cat Defender posts of September 11, 2008, October 3, 2008, and November 7, 2008 entitled, respectively, "North London Borough Bans Lost Cat Posters Thus Forcing Ginger Boy to Find His Way Home by Himself," "Haringey Council Comes to Its Senses and Rescinds Its Ban on Lost Cat Posters but It Already May Be Too Late to Save Ginger Boy," and "Ginger Boy Is Found Safe and Sound after Roaming the Streets of Harringay Ladder for Nearly Two Months.")
The high-muck-a-mucks in Haringey eventually backed down and Miles thus was able to avoid being fined but the outcome was entirely different a few years later in Bedford when the Bedfordshire Borough Council gave forty-four-year-old Mike Harding only forty-eight hours in order to remove twenty Lost Cat posters that he had erected around town in an effort to locate his seven-year-old cat, Wookie. Failure to have complied would have cost him £1,000.
Afterwards he expressed many of the same sentiments that Brunette was later to voice after his incarceration. "...I'm a law-abiding citizen and I've not even got so much as a speeding ticket and I'm being threatened to be fined £1,000 for looking for my cat," he complained to The Telegraph on January 3, 2011. (See "Council Threatens Man with Fine over Lost Cat Posters.") "You would think the council would have more compassion."
Ownership restrictions and bans on Lost Cat posters are merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg, however, as far as the authorities in Quebec are concerned in that some of them seem to think that they have a divine right to take the law into their own hands. For instance, in July of 2013 Mayor Stéphane Gendron of Huntingdon, twenty-six kilometers west of Franklin, bragged on his radio show about running down and killing cats with his pickup truck.
"When I see a cat in the street, I accelerate," he declared on Radio X according to the July 13, 2013 edition of The Globe and Mail of Toronto. (See "Quebec Mayor in Cat Scandal Under Investigation by Animal Rights Activists.") "Stray cats have no business in the street. So bang! I accelerate."
He even went on to claim that killing kittens made him especially delirious with joy. "The other day, I backed up on one, it was a newborn," The Huffington Post reported him as declaring on July 13th. (See "Stéphane Gendron Killed Cats with Truck, He Admits on Radio Show.") "I'm sure he didn't feel anything. The pickup truck ran on it like nothing. I was so happy, yes! One less."
Many individuals do not want to believe it but Gendron's admission is just one more bit of evidence that motorists do not accidentally kill cats; au contraire, every single one of all the dead cats to be found in the street have been intentionally run down and killed by low-life scumbags like Gendron. Many motorists also do likewise to pedestrians and bicyclists.
Although both the SPCA and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council pledged to look into the matter, no punitive action ever was initiated against him. The only positive development came when pet food supplier Mondou of Montreal pulled its ads from Radio X in protest.
"Shocking, but not surprising," is how Leni Parker of the Montreal-based rescue group, Pussy Patrol, characterized Gendron's conduct to The Globe and Mail. "Quebec is one of the worst places on the planet in terms of animal abuse and complacency."
Considering how horribly that cats are treated throughout the province, it was not all that surprising that a four-year-old tom named Humbert did not fare too well last year when he campaigned to represent the Montreal arrondissement of Notre Dame de Grâce and Westmount in Parliament. Instead, the voters on October 19th returned Liberal MP Marc Garneau to Ottawa.
"We just thought that given all the characters running for election, you couldn't do any worse than our cat," Humbert's owner, John Jordan, averred to the CBC on August 18, 2015. (See "Humbert, Four-Year-Old Furry Feline, Tries to Purr-suade Voters in Notre Dame de Grâce-Westmount.") "He's good at his job and he's well-known. He's a man of the people."
Generally speaking, it would appear that Théophile Gautier was talking out his hat when he once declared that "only a Frenchman could understand the fine and subtle qualities of the cat." On the contrary, these are perilous times for both cats and their owners everywhere but that appears to be especially the case in Quebec.
Photos: Magalie Lapointe of Le Journal de Montreal (Brunette with one of his cats), CTV of Montreal (Gizmo), Ian Barrett of The Globe and Mail (Gendron), and Carol Berringer of Facebook via the CBC (Humbert).