Photographer Waiting for Cloud Cover is Handcuffed and Fined for Loitering

A photographer in Quebec City, Canada waiting for clouds to form so he could capture the perfect shot was fined $168 (230 CAD) for loitering after a U.S. consulate guard asked him to leave.

John Morris, a professional photographer from Prince Edward Island, Canada, was trying to get a shot of Quebec City’s iconic Chateau Frontenac hotel on Tuesday when he was accosted by a guard from the nearby U.S. consulate.

“[They] said, ‘You can’t be standing outside for 30 minutes,'” he tells CBC. Morris refused to leave stating that he was standing on a public sidewalk. “I’m not disturbing anybody. I’m not blocking any views. I’m out of the way,” he told the guard.

The police were alerted and responded to a call about a “suspicious man near the American consulate.” When the officers arrived, Morris refused to give them his name unless the police outlined what offense he was committing.

“Okay, this is weird I’m going to take out my camera, take out my phone, and film this,” says Morris. “And at that point, they said ‘Put your hands behind my back’.”

That’s when Morris was handcuffed and fined 230 Canadian dollars ($168) for breaking a bylaw that prevents loitering.

“It’s absolutely crazy that you would be given a fine for waiting for clouds on a public sidewalk. I’m a professional photographer, I do this for a living,” says Morris who shoots Canadian landscapes and sports.

What Constitutes Loitering?

Quebec City police spokesperson Sandra Dion tells CBC that “it’s not every day that we get 911 calls about a suspicious person” hanging around the consulate.

Chateau Frontenac hotel
The Chateau Frontenac hotel that Morris was trying to get a photo of.

The bylaw states that it is “prohibited for a person, without a reasonable motive … to loiter, wander or sleep in a street or a public space.”

But Dion says that Quebec City police will arrest or fine someone for loitering on a “case-by-case basis,” and “it’s up to the police officers’ discretion.”

“It kind of does make you question, like what are the rules of being on a public sidewalk in Canada anymore if that’s what happens,” says Morris.

Criminal defense lawyer, Florence Boucher Cossette, who fights hundreds of loitering tickets per year, adds: “Every day, every single second in this city, people are loitering. So why aren’t you arresting them?”

Morris is pleading not guilty and plans to contest the ticket, Boucher Cossette thinks the photographer has a good chance of winning his case because taking photographs means he had a reason to be there.

To add insult to injury, Morris didn’t get the photo he was after. As the clouds he was waiting for appeared, he was being taken into the police vehicle.

Image credits: Feature photo licensed via Depositphotos.