Protests heat up in Quebec City on the eve of G7 summit
The first major protest march of the G7 summit is set to start Thursday evening, as protests ramp up on the eve of the G7 summit.
It's organized by the Réseau de résistance anti-G7 (RRAG7).
The marchers will leave from the Parc des Braves in Old Quebec and move toward Quebec City's convention centre, where delegates from several countries have gathered for parallel meetings to the G7.
Some 1,400 representatives from 300 international media organizations are set up in the convention centre, where they will be following news conferences in La Malbaie via teleconference, more than 140 kilometres away.
A police operation took place this afternoon in La Malbaie, Que. forcing the evacuation of a half dozen homes.
Police searched a car amid concerns of possible presence of inflammable material in the vehicle.
The driver was arrested and remains detained for further questioning.
The operation wrapped up just before 5 p.m. and police have confirmed no suspicious materials were found on site.
Earlier on Thursday, women's economic empowerment was the first issue advanced by pressure groups on Thursday morning in Quebec City, launching three days of planned protests on the eve of the G7 Summit taking place in La Malbaie, Que.
The demonstration, organized by Oxfam-Québec, was cut short by a torrential downpour just after 9 a.m.
"We wanted to send a strong message to the G7 leaders that one neglected area has been unpaid care work," said Diana Sirosi, policy manager for Oxfam-Canada.
According to the non-profit development agency, women devote two to ten times more time than men do to unpaid domestic work, from child care, to caring for elderly parents, to household chores.
Despite the risk of trade talks on tariffs overshadowing the debate of other issues at the Summit, Sirosi said she was encouraged by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's appointment of a gender equality advisory council got Canada's G7 presidency, calling the move "bold and ambitious".
"These are powerful women from across the world who are not going to just walk away and say, 'It's over now,'" said Sirosi.
Oxfam-Québec explained it wanted to get its message across before everyone else — and before any potentially explosive protests take over the news agenda.
"We change hearts and minds, and the best way to do that is through peaceful protest," said Sirosi.
Several daycares and schools in downtown Quebec City have shut down for the day, while public servants and elected officials were ordered to head home as of noon.
Merchants like Pierre Rouleau in Quebec City's downtown core have also started boarding up their windows, to protect them from potential vandalism by protesters.
Rouleau, whose clothing store on Saint-Jean Street was sprayed with graffiti in 2001, is among those who recall how those protests at the Third Summit of the Americas quickly spun out of control.
"During G7 summits there is always ruckus, I don't see why it would be different here," said Rouleau.
Civil rights observers monitor police
The 2001 meeting is also fresh in the minds of human rights advocates, who are concerned crowd-control tactics used by police during the Summit of the Americas could be repeated, violating protesters' rights.
More than 40 volunteers with Amnesty International and Quebec's civil rights league, the Ligue des droits et libertés (LDL), will be monitoring the protests and keeping an eye on police behaviour.
The groups say there are concerned with a police technique called kettling, in which large groups of protestors are circled and arrested.
Police have also put in place temporary detention facilities in the parking lot of the Victoria police station.
"We're worried because we're told there will be no mass arrests, but the security measures put in place lead us to think there could be a discord between their message and what will happen on the ground," said Geneviève Paul, the general manager of Amnesty International for francophone Canada.
LDL counted 1,100 arrests during the G20 Summit in Toronto in 2010, which led to several lawsuits against police.
Amnesty International is also concerned about the possible use of rubber ball blast grenades, also known as a stun grenades, used by Montreal police during the Maple Spring — the student protests over planned tuition fee hikes in 2012.
The Quebec City police force (SPVQ) will be in charge of security on its territory during the Summit, with provincial police officers standing by as backup.