Fortress Quebec

FTAA protesters vs. Canadian clampdown

Revolutionary Worker #1096, March 25, 2001, posted at

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 Caribbean).

A broad array of forces are mobilizing to protest this meeting of global vultures.

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 protest.

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 control.

Police forces in Canada have been preparing for months, and their plans draw on tactics used against protesters at other anti-globalization demonstrations--and more.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) estimates that the overall budget for the police operation during the three-day Summit will be well over $22 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 public outrage.

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.

Political Police

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 wisdom."

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 economy."

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 conditions, etc.

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 and (These sites include links to other organizing websites.)

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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