RW ONLINE:Fortress Quebec
FTAA protesters vs. Canadian clampdown
Revolutionary Worker #1096, March 25, 2001, posted at rwor.org
The clampdown and lockdown of Quebec City in Canada has already begun. Whole
sections of the city will be walled off. Thousands of people will have to show
special IDs to get to work or home. The biggest police deployment in the
country's history is getting ready. Protesters are already being harassed and
arrested. Millions of dollars are being spent to provide security for a huge
meeting of capitalist exploiters.
From April 20 to 22, Quebec City will be the site of the Summit of the
Americas, a gathering of the heads of governments of 34 countries in North,
South and Central America, as well as the Caribbean (with the exception of
Cuba). The purpose of the Summit is to put the final touches on the Free Trade
Area of the Americas (FTAA) agreement--which will expand NAFTA. The goal of the
FTAA is to increase privatization and deregulation--to grease the wheels for
even more rampant imperialist exploitation throughout the whole Western
hemisphere (North America, Central America, South America and the
A broad array of forces are mobilizing to protest this meeting of global
Veterans of the anti-capitalism/globalization battles in Seattle, Washington,
D.C., Windsor, Ontario, Prague, Czech Republic--will join with other
environmentalists, revolutionaries, anarchists, union members, and many others
from both sides of the U.S/Canada border. Actions are already being planned in
the weeks before the meeting to expose what the FTAA is all about and how it
will hurt the people. One leaflet put it: "Negotiated unilaterally, the FTAA
process is yet another example of the kind of economic violence that aims to
suppress the gains of popular struggles of the past, and reinforce the power of
cash and cops over our lives."
In response, Canadian authorities are taking extreme measures to prevent
people from protesting.
Preparing for a Clampdown
Since the anti-World Trade Organization demonstrations in Seattle in December
1999, there have been a number of imperialist and bourgeois gatherings worldwide
that have turned into scenes of determined protest and resistance. Meetings have
had to be shortened or canceled. Attendees have been inconvenienced and hounded.
Blood-soaked policies have been revealed and exposed. What used to be the
controlled gatherings of the powerful and the privileged have become contested
centers of resistance.
In an attempt to prevent similar disruptions at the FTAA meeting, the
Canadian government is preparing to brutally contain and suppress any sign of
The national police force of Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP
or Mounties), will deploy what is being referred to in the press as the biggest
peacetime "preventative security" operation in Canadian history. In all, four
police forces will take part in the security operations in Quebec City--the
RCMP, the Surete du Quebec (the provincial police force), the municipal police
of Quebec City and Saint-Foy. As of this writing, 5,000 police have been
assigned to the event, and have been given intensive training in crowd
Police forces in Canada have been preparing for months, and their plans draw
on tactics used against protesters at other anti-globalization
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) estimates that the overall budget
for the police operation during the three-day Summit will be well over
million. Over 5,000 officers from the RCMP are slated to work during the three
days and there are plans to "co-ordinate and establish the necessary liaisons
with the Canadian Armed Forces," if necessary. In fact, Canada's armed forces
have already been called in and have been training 800 riot police just outside
of Quebec City.
Similar to what the police did at the recent Bush inauguration, police in
Canada are sealing off a huge part of downtown Quebec City. A ten-foot-high
chain link fence, anchored in concrete, will mark a perimeter of the summit's
"security zone"--a zone that includes the walls of an 18th-century fortress, the
six main hotels for the conference attendees, and the battlefield of the Plains
of Abraham (from the French and Indian War of 1756-63).
One activist wrote on the internet: "The imposing stone walls of Old Quebec
City may not have repelled the British army in 1759, but the new wall of steel
wire beginning to fence off several square kilometers of the Vieille Capitale is
this time expected to hold back more than heathen invaders--it's also intended
to keep out ideas. It's a sign of how far we've come in the era of free trade,
when the citizens of Quebec will be barred from visiting their own capital, all
in the name of international capital."
The perimeter will cover approximately four square miles of the downtown
core. All those who live or work inside this area--nearly 25,000--will have to
have security passes issued by the police to come and go to their own homes or
businesses, along with the 5,000 official delegates and nearly 3,000 accredited
media attending the FTAA meeting.
Originally, the police planned to run criminal record checks on all Quebec
residents receiving a pass--but they had to back off this after widespread
The RCMP announced that it has rented all vacant apartments and houses within
the security perimeter, as well as reserved all hotel accommodations within 55
miles, to avoid leaving anything vacant for protesters. And all sewer entrances
within the security perimeter will be sealed.
Back in November, Quebec's minister for Public Security announced that the
Orsainville provincial prison will be emptied of its over 600 inmates during the
Summit to make room for arrested protesters. He later went on to justify the
need for such drastic police measures by saying, "If you want peace, you must
prepare for war."
In another move against protesters, the city councils of Saint-Foy and Quebec
City passed bylaws prohibiting the wearing of scarves to cover a part or a whole
of the face, not only during the demonstrations, but also in the weeks leading
up to the FTAA meeting. People are subject to fines and/or a jail sentence. (The
same thing was done in Philadelphia before the RNC.)
During the Nazi occupation of Denmark during World War 2, the Nazis ordered
all Jews to wear a yellow Star of David so they could be identified for
"transport." In response all the Danish people, including the king, put on
yellow stars. Inspired by this example, activists in Canada called for "A Scarf
Wearing Call-out on April 2"--a day of vigils and marches and a day where people
all over wear scarves on the street, to work, school, etc.
Faced with the prospects of thousands of people breaking the anti-scarf law,
the Canadian authorities backed off this new regulation.
In early January the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) began
going to the homes of people they suspected were planning for the FTAA to
question them about the upcoming actions. A lawyer who represents people
arrested at earlier demonstrations said the CSIS were targeting relatively
inexperienced protesters hoping they could be more easily intimidated into
giving them information. The CSIS is trying to get information that will allow
them to more effectively attack the FTAA demonstrators. Canada, like the U.S.,
proclaims itself a "democracy" but is nothing more than a bourgeois dictatorship
that needs its political police to carry out its dirty work.
In the forefront of these police operations is the RCMP, an agency with a
long and sordid history. The RCMP has been widely exposed for carrying out
break-ins, wiretapping, opening mail, planting agent-provocateurs and other
assorted political-police measures against people stepping out against the
system. Especially in the late '60s and throughout the 1970s the RCMP was
exposed for targeting radical groups, U.S. draft resisters living in Canada and
their supporters, and the Quebec independence movement. Much of this activity
came to light in the late '70s and early '80s, when at one point there were four
major investigations into "Mounties." In the early 1990s the Mounties were
mobilized against the Mohawk Indians who were fighting for their land.
The CSIS was formed in the early 1980s to take over some of the "security"
operations from the RCMP. According to a recent UPI (United Press International)
report, "CSIS planted an agent inside a neo-Nazi group, and was embarrassed when
the agent became one of the leaders and got carried away with planning and
participating in anti-Jewish and neo-Nazi activities."
The RCMP and CSIS have a tight working relationship with the FBI, CIA and
other U.S. spy agencies. The RCMP in particular has worked closely with the FBI
and CIA on everything from "routine" criminal cases to hostage negotiations to
coordinating high-tech surveillance. All the indications are that they are
drawing on that relationship in preparing for the FTAA.
Border Wars and Biometrics
Quebec City is located in the Canadian province of Quebec about 160 miles
northwest of Montreal (about 400 miles due north of NYC). Activists from outside
of Canada who want to go to the demonstrations will have border "choke points"
where Canadian authorities hope to stop any anti-FTAA protesters.
According to UPI, "The days before Quebec could be the first test of the new
border security agreements on intelligence sharing between America's FBI and
Canada's RCMP." The agreement made in June 2000 by the U.S. Attorney General and
the Canadian Solicitor General announced the formation of the Integrated Border
Enforcement Team (IBET), a multi-agency law-enforcement operation that includes
Canadian and U.S. police, immigration and customs agents One IBET is already in
operation on the Washington State/British Columbia border. The agreement also
calls for sharing of law enforcement technology, like developments in videotape
enhancement and security systems, to help further control the border.
Videotapes of previous demonstrations in Seattle, and in Washington, D.C.
last April, have been scanned to record faces of demonstrators to identify them
at the border. According to UPI, "FBI sources say some of the new facial
recognition software that was tested at this year's Super Bowl is so good that
it can identify suspects even if half their faces were concealed with bandanas."
(The technology used at the Super Bowl was supplied by a U.S. company called
Viisage. The RCMP uses the technology of a company called Imagis. See sidebar
for more on the RCMP's use of biometrics.)
The use of biometrics coincides with the open use of cameras to monitor
demonstrators in Quebec City, which the Quebec Public Security Minister has
already said will be in place--along with possible laws outlawing covering your
face, making it illegal to not be wide open to this kind of surveillance.
There is a blatant bit of fascist ideology being put forward with this.
Saint-Foy police spokesman Capt. Andre Fillion said, "When there is a danger of
being identified, you will think before you act. Fear is the beginning of
The border lockdown has begun well in advance of the demonstrations.
According to the Stop FTAA website, on January 26, 10 New York City-based
activists who were driving to Quebec City for a strategy meeting organized by
the Summit of the Americas Welcoming Committee (CASA in French) were denied
entry at the border. The activists included members of the Urban Justice Center,
NYC Direct Action Network, NYUC Ya Basta! Collective, Independent Media Center
and some independent activists. Police searched their van (without permission),
and proceeded to collect and copy documents related to resistance at the FTAA.
One Canadian official explained, "It is my job to protect the Canadian
To counter this, organizers and supporters are planning to demonstrate along
the border itself. According to the Stop FTAA website, "There are several border
FTAA actions being planned for April at both the U.S./Mexico and U.S./Canada
borders. Major actions are being planned at the Buffalo, San Diego, and
Vancouver borders. Mass border crossings are also being planned in Vermont and
part of New York."
The FTAA will affect the everyday lives of millions by extending the North
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to the entire Western hemisphere. It has
been the subject of secretive negotiations since the first Summit was held in
Miami in 1994. Negotiators have set 2005 as the FTAA's implementation deadline.
Like NAFTA, the FTAA will submit health, education, environmental and labor
standards to the forces of the free market--which will mean even more rampant
expansion of sweatshops, destruction of the environment, unsafe working
But the imperialist plans to implement the FTAA are being exposed and
challenged. And in the face of an intense crackdown in Quebec, there are
determined plans for protest and resistance.
Large and diverse coalitions have brought together dozens of
organizations--including unions, campus groups, community organizations, and
political parties, as well as individuals--to protest the Summit. Protests will
address a range of issues, including FTAA's impacts on labor and the environment
and the threats on civil liberties resulting from the Summit itself.
A "People's Summit" is planned for April 17-22 that will bring together
activists from across the hemisphere and feature workshops, conferences,
teach-ins, and demonstrations. There are plans for an "Alternative Media
Center." The Montreal-based Anti-Capitalist Convergence (CLAC) and the Quebec
City-based Summit of the Americas Welcoming Committee (CASA) is planning a
"Carnival Against Capital" with workshops, teach-ins, concerts, conferences,
cabarets, street theatre, protests, and direct action. CLAC has also organized a
"FTAA Caravan" across the northeastern United States and Canada. Other actions
are aimed at ensuring that activists coming into Canada to protest will not be
stopped at the border.
April promises to be an important month of struggle.
More information on the upcoming actions can be found at www.stopFTAA.org and
www.A20.org (These sites include links to other organizing websites.)
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker
Write: Box 3486,
Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax:
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)