Last weekend, Spacing Montreal contributor Andrew Emond was arrested during a foray into Toronto’s sewer system. According to an article in the Toronto Star, Emond and a fellow photographer, Michael Cook, are being charged with “mischief to interfere with property.”
According to the Criminal code of Canada 430(1), the mischief charge applies when someone willfully:
“a) destroys or damages property; b) renders property dangerous, useless, inoperative or ineffective c) obstructs interrups or interferes with the lawful use enjoyment or operation of property or d) obstructs, interrupts, or interferes with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property.”
Emond is not currently in a position to comment on the case until it is resolved in court. However the pair’s intent was almost certainly not to destroy, damage, interrupt or interfere with the sewer. On the contrary, most urban explorers voluntarily follow a code of conduct which precludes tagging, stealing, littering or vandalizing in order to preserve the sites they visit.
Emond is particulary reverential of Montreal’s sewers and has written extensively about the links they provide to our natural and social history on his blog Under Montreal, as well as on Spacing Montreal.
His photography has revealed some of Montreal’s oldest un-modified structures: brick sewers constructed in the 1860s.
Beyond daring to venture through knee-deep sewer-water, Emond has delved into the archives to chart the history and development of this all-important, yet often-overlooked infrastructure. He’s put together a rich account of people’s relationship with the sewers through the ages, sought to put faces to the men who built the sewers, and deciphered hand-written field notes from sewer engineers.
Emond has also mapped Montreal’s lost rivers, now almost entirely channeled through the sewer system, and provided us with some the most thorough analysis of our city’s aqueducts and waste-water treatment facilities available.
Michael Cook is based in Toronto and publishes a blog called The Vanishing Point, which includes a detailed map and set of photos of the Garrison Creek sewer, in which the two men were arrested.
An urban exploring acquaintance of Emond and Cook, who was quoted but not named in the Toronto Star, said:
“A city like Toronto desperately needs more urban mythology. Instead of having crap like the CN Tower, the SkyDome represent the city, we present things that have been around much longer that most people aren’t even aware of.”
Personally, I have been fascinated by and thankful for Emond’s perspective on the city, which simply cannot be found in this kind of detail anywhere else. Although I aknowledge that laws applying to entering the sewer system exist for a reason, I hope that in this case the court will aknowledge the explorers’ intentions, as evidenced by the valuable body of work they have already created.
Images by Andrew Emond. Top: Garrison sewer, the system in which the two men were arrested last weekend. Below: 147-year old sewer in Montreal.