During the scope of an investigation, the Ombudsman de Montréal noted that Ville de Montréal was installing parking meters less than 5 meters away from a fire hydrant, whereas if there were no parking meters, parking is prohibited in such a zone and subject to a fine. Hence, the Ombudsman questioned the equity of the situation.

Our investigation confirmed that drivers who park their vehicles less than 5 meters away from a fire hydrant will normally receive a fine although Ville de Montréal often installs paying parking spaces covered by parking meters, as close as 2.5 meters on either side of fire hydrants.

It seemed unfair that the City fines citizens who park 2.5 meters away from a fire hydrant, while they would allow them to park in this same spot, if this was a paying parking space.

We checked with the Service de sécurité incendie de Montréal (the “SIM”) if the 5 meters space was required, for the purpose of their operations, in case of a fire. After technical tests, the SIM informed our office that, in light of the new types of vehicles used in Montréal, a minimal space of 1 meter on each side of a fire hydrant is sufficient to meet their operational needs.

On the other hand, our investigation revealed that the 5 meters parking prohibition, each side of a fire hydrant, is provided for in a provincial law, the Highway Safety Code (R.S.Q., chapter C-24.2), of which Section 386(2) states that:

“Except in cases of necessity or where another provision of this Code permits it, no person may stop a road vehicle:

(2) less than 5 meters from a fire hydrant or a stop sign.”

According to section 295 (7) of the same Code, however:

“The person responsible for the maintenance of a public highway may, by means of the proper signs or signals:

(7) prohibit, restrict or otherwise regulate the stopping or parking of road vehicles.

This last provision is the one under which Ville de Montréal was allowed to install paid parking spaces less than 5 meters from a fire hydrant.

The implementation of these shorter zones does not appear unreasonable, from a safety point of view, since it meets the operational needs of the SIM. It seemed difficult to justify from a justice and equity perspective, however, that the City continued to strictly apply the 5 meters rule in areas where there is no parking meter. In our opinion, Ville de Montréal should apply the same standard in every case, whether a parking space is a paying one or not.

Following our intervention, Ville de Montréal committed to initiate discussions with the Québec government in order to regularize this situation. It advocated for the following solution: it would ask the Québec government to amend the Highway Safety Code. Initially, our office found this approach acceptable. Four years later, however, we are still awaiting results. It would appear that due to other municipal priorities, this request was not yet submitted to the Québec government.

We have suggested other solutions to the City, but none were retained for reasons that were not unreasonable. Thus, the process is continuing and we are regularly following up on this file.

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