Tommy Boucher was fined $75 for giving away free hugs to people at the Jean-Talon Metro station in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on Nov. 22. He wore a green shirt that said "Free Hugs" in French and English.
Boucher noted on his blog that he was approached by two Societe de transport de Montreal (STM) inspectors who asked if he had a permit. Boucher did not have the permit, so an inspector fined him for violating part of STM By-Law R-036:
In a metro station, after obtaining the authorization of the Societe, it is permitted to offer for sale or lease services or merchandise, or to exhibit or distribute such services or merchandise, subject to the other restrictions in the present By-law. Under any other circumstance or in any other place, such activities are forbidden.
In other words, Boucher was fined because he was soliciting his "services" -- free hugs -- without permission from the STM.
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Boucher wrote: "What I understand of that, is that I can wear my t-shirt with 'free hugs' written on it… but I can’t open my arms."
CBC News reports that the STM is backing down from the fine (possibly because of bad publicity), which has been reduced to a warning.
Boucher has reportedly been giving free hugs at metro stations around Montreal throughout the year.
"It's just giving hugs," he told CBC News. "So they found me guilty of what? Of spreading my arms? Of wearing the T-shirt? Of staying too long in the subway in the same place?"
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The STM has warned Boucher that his free hugging must happen outside the turnstiles at the metro stations, or else.
Boucher told the news site that he came up with the free hugs idea after he was experiencing a bad day and someone gave him a free hug at a metro station.
"I took my free hug because I needed it," Boucher recalled. "I found it so great and so easy, I wanted to share and give it back to people around me. I was surprisingly really comfortable with it. I just wear the T-shirt and spread my arms."
Boucher said that Metro stations are "the best place where people may be in need of a hug."