In the course of April 20-22nd, Quebec city, Quebec, hosted the 3rd annual Summit of the Americas. Previous summit appearances were held in Miami and Santiago. A total of thirty-four states were involved from North and South America, excluding Fidel Castro’s Cuba. The function of this summit was to discuss various issues affecting millions of individuals in the western hemisphere. Besides the conventional summit discussions of security, terrorism, human rights and democracy, the focal point of this summit was the finalization of Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) (Leroux, 2001). This summit was particularly a significant event in Canada because, due to the strict security measures, it was the largest police deployment in Canadian history. It was so paramount that the army was involved. Security personnel for the summit consisted of 680 armed forces, almost 7,000 police officers: 3,768 from the RCMP and 2,750 from the Sûreté du Québec (King & Waddington, 2005).
A few reasons that led to the initial uproars involved people believing these summits were a secret negotiation and that the FTAA would acknowledge health, education, environmental and labour only to the standards of the free market, just like NAFTA had done prior to this agreement. The protesters underlying assumptions were that these free trade agreements worked in favour of corporations and against the interests of government and especially individuals. More specifically, free trade agreements have, previously, fundamentally violated labour law and nothing had been done to address these issues; in addition, neoliberalism had failed to protect citizen’s rights (Leroux, 2001).
The notion of militarization plays a key role in how law enforcers dealt with protesters. This was evident in Sergeant Menard’s, minister for Public Safety, press conference when he said, “If you want peace, you must prepare for war (Leroux, 2001).” Security measures went so far that extreme degrees of safety were implemented. They included all sewers within the periphery being sealed for fear that protesters would find their way through underground mazes and into where government officials were located. This is partly why it was the largest deployment in Canadian history; mainly because a lot of the measures taken were never done before. Throughout most of the demonstration students and youth activists jointly organized peaceful and good-natured marches, consisting of the Summit of Americas Welcoming Committee (CASA) and the Anti-Capitalist Convergence (CLAC). As a precaution, though, police erected a 6.1 KM wall to cordon the site from demonstrators, consisting of a three metre high chain and concrete based construction, capable of withstand 20,000 pounds of pressure (King & Waddington, 2005). Subsequently, when the wall was penetrated by protesters, it lead to provocation and confrontation.
Ironically, in a single demonstration, protesters were throwing rocks and tear gases at the police inside the periphery, the police shooting back rubber bullets, whereas several metres away other demonstrators were peacefully dancing and chanting (Lessard-Lachance & Norcliffe, 2013). One could classify the security operations as useless and a waste of government funds. Primarily, for the reason that the Quebec City protest was not successful insofar as Western political leaders did not make any economic or environmental policy changes in response to the demonstrators persuasive actions (Lessard-Lachance & Norcliffe, 2013).
King, M. & Waddington, D. (2005). Flashpoints Revisited: A Critical Application to the Policing of Anti-Globalization Protest. Policing and Society, 15(3), 255-282.
Leroux, Darryl. (2001, February 20). Canada: Quebec Set to Crackdown on FTAA Protests. http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=175
Lessard-Lachance, M., & Norcliffe, G. (2013). To Storm the Citadel. Geographies of Protest at the Summit of the Americas in Québec City, April 2001. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 103(1), 180-194.