Thursday, July 12, 2007

Police shut down protest meeting in Quebec

From the Ottawa Citizen via today's Montreal Gazette:

OTTAWA – Police have derailed plans for a public forum in Quebec on the Security and Prosperity Partnership that was to take place six kilometres from where the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the United States gather next month for a summit meeting.

Several weeks ago, the Council of Canadians put down a $100 deposit to rent the community centre in Papineauville, not far from the summit site in Montebello, for the public forum.

The forum was scheduled for Aug. 19, the day before the North American leaders are to start two days of meetings on the Security and Prosperity Partnership, a controversial initiative aimed at more closely aligning the three countries in a variety of areas.

But Brent Patterson, the council’s director of organizing, said a Papineauville official called late Tuesday to say the RCMP, the Sûreté du Quebec and the U.S. army would not allow the municipality to rent the facility to the council for the planned forum.

Patterson said Frédéric Castonguay, the town’s general manager, reported that Guy Côté of the Sûreté de Quebec in Montreal told him the council “is an activist organization opposed to the summit and that it would not be wise to have us set up in the community centre.”

Castonguay said yesterday that Côté told him the police and U.S. army need the community centre as a base of operations for summit security.

“They didn’t want us to rent it to anyone because they need the room there to put equipment and special vehicles,” he said, adding the police position was not open to debate. “There was no choice.”

Patterson reacted angrily. “It’s deplorable that we are being prevented from bringing together a panel of writers, academics and parliamentarians to share their concerns about the Security and Prosperity Partnership with Canadians,” he said.

The council views the Papineauville community centre as an ideal location for the public forum because of its size – it can hold up to 1,000 people – and proximity to Montebello, where the leaders meet Aug. 20-21.

It has already begun lining up speakers for the forum. Along with council chairwoman Maude Barlow, it had tentative acceptance from University of British Columbia professor Michael Byers and was also approaching parliamentarians. The loss of the centre throws those plans into disarray.

Last month, a town official in Montebello told Patterson police were planning to erect a 25kilometre security perimeter around the town. The Montebello official said police were going to turn back any vehicle carrying more than five people.

At the time, the RCMP said security planning was still in progress and no decisions had been made on its impact on people living and working in the area.

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