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Ralentissement du Service: The Devastating Neglect of Protective Barriers for the Metro

Sabina Bellisario-Giglio

News Editor

Trigger warning: this article talks about suicide and suicide attempts.

It has almost become a long-standing Montreal tradition. Whether you are on your way to class or work, it seems like almost a weekly occurrence to hear those infamous words;


“Ralentissement du service sur la ligne verte, d’autres messages suivront.”


The announcement is always preceded by groans of frustration, with passengers either leaving the cart or being ushered out by STM constables. And, for a while, I felt the same. I wouldn’t call the treacherous journey of getting from Westmount to Anjou entertaining, but there came a point in which that feeling of annoyance shifted to dread and sorrow.


Each code broadcast through the intercom system, whether it be the most common codes like 60 or 6, or the codes in the 900s, have meaning. Leo Blanchard published an article to the Montreal Compass in 2017 detailing these codes. The codes in the 900s detail emergency codes, the ones typically used during the long interruptions. While they cover many different emergencies, there’s one code in particular that stands out: code 904: suicide attempt.


This act of suicide is, unfortunately, not uncommon. The Los Angeles Times reported that the Golden Gate Bridge has over 1,800 deaths linked to it. The Globe and Mail reported in 2003 that “an average of 45 people try to kill themselves by jumping off the Jacques Cartier Bridge each year.” These two places share something in common: their accessibility. While intended to facilitate travel across bodies of water, the grim reality is that these locations often become hotspots for those overwhelmed by the burdens of life.


Operated by the Société de Transport de Montreal (STM), the metro system in Montreal connects 68 stations across the island and aids residents and tourists alike in traversing the island via the underground system. Whether you pay the $3.75 fee, or find other ways to get past the turnstiles, the metro system becomes just as accessible, and dangerous, as these bridges. Le Devoir reported that suicides attempts have been the cause of “21.3 [interruptions] per year since the start of 2015.”  



The STM’s long promise to install protective platform barriers in its stations came after a record year of interruptions on the subway system in 2017. CBC reported that there were 1,171 interruptions that lasted five minutes or longer. In the past, the STM estimated that the installation of these barriers would cost around $10-15 million per station.


However, The Montreal Gazette reported in 2022 that the project that was put in place to build these protective doors in some stations on the Orange line was quietly shelved, despite the STM being promised roughly $200 million in provincial funds in order to fund the project. The barriers were left out of the capital expenditure budget which covers from 2022-2031. A spokesperson informed The Gazette that the cuts to the budget were made in order to reduce debt after the financial difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic. The STM’s details on its website that the budget is being used to “carry out major projects, such as the Bellechasse transport center, the Crémazie complex, the extension of the blue line and the electrification of bus network infrastructure and vehicles.” 

Jérôme Gaudreault, the director general of the Association québecoise de prevention du suicide (AQPS), expressed the importance of these barriers to The Gazette and emphasized their efficiency in saving lives. “Once they arrive [at the metro] and see that [taking their life is] not possible, most of the time, there won’t be a transfer of method... In general, they will reconsider their [wish to die], which will give the advantage of time for people to intervene, or for the person to seek help.”


Regardless of this decision, Canadians, especially teens continue to struggle with mental health issues post pandemic. Melissa Généreux, a public health physician from Quebec, shared to CBC that she has been surveying young people about their mental health in several regions of Quebec. In January 2023, she reported that 20% of the surveyed individuals had poor or bad mental health. While the number had decreased from 30% in 2022, Généreux stressed that it’s still “double what it was before the pandemic”.

In addition, Quebec’s homeless population has been steadily increasing. CBC reported that the number of people who were “visibly” homeless jumped from 5,789 in 2018 to 10,000 in 2022. Notably, 4,690 of those people were living in Montreal.


The STM’s collaboration with Center for Suicide Intervention (CRISE) to develop an AI tool for identifying stress indicators aiming to intervene before potential suicide attempts mirrors trying to apply a band-aid to a sinking boat. No matter the cost, it’s imperative that the STM stops throwing out empty promises and begins to actively help prevent these deaths that they’ve neglected for too long.

Suicide prevention and helpline by phone: 1-866-277-3553

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 9-8-8

By text: 535353

Tel-jeunes (for ages 12-17): 1-800-263-2266



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