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[Rhino] Mulroneyite vs. police state
Thu, 26 Apr 2001 11:15:58 -0700
This got cut off, but you'll get the jist of it
Published on Tuesday, April 24, 2001
in the Toronto Globe & Mail
A Police State in the Making:
Democracy Trampled in Quebec City
by Sinclair Stevens
I never thought I'd be writing this article, surely not in Canada.
There aren't many people in this country who view free
trade as positively as I do. As industry minister in the
Mulroney government, I participated in the 1985 Shamrock
Summit that set the stage for our trade agreement with
the United States. I was even responsible for replacing
the Foreign Investment Review Agency with Investment
Canada, a welcome mat for our partners to the South.
There also aren't many people who view the maintenance
of law and order as a higher priority than I do.
But this past weekend, I was shocked by events in Quebec
City. Shocked by what I saw, and stunned by what my
wife, Noreen, and I personally experienced.
I believe Canada is right to view free trade as a model
for democratic development in every corner of our
hemisphere, and I was delighted to see us host the
Summit of the Americas. But our government is dead wrong
to behave in a manner that suggests we have forgotten what
democracy is all about.
Noreen and I arrived in Quebec City last Friday at about
5 p.m. We had heard about the so-called security fence
and wanted to see it firsthand, to walk along beside it.
My first view of the fence was in front of the Château
Frontenac. It brought back memories of many happy visits
to that hotel. But, this weekend, I could not enter: The
hotel was inside the fence, I was outside.
As we walked around the perimeter, a 40-year-old chap
passed us, and asked: "Where is your gas mask?" I asked
what he meant. He said: "There is gas farther on --
watch out." We continued until we saw our first contingent of
riot-geared police lined up three deep behind a closed
gate. They were an intimidating sight -- in battle dress, with
helmets, masks, shields and assorted elaborate weapons.
I was glad, this time, that they were inside the fence
and we were outside.
Farther on, just before we got to Dufferin Street, there
were perhaps 50 people -- protesters, it turned out -- who
were standing or sitting on a small side road. At the
end of the road, we saw a much larger group of riot police
standing shoulder-to-shoulder, several rows deep. The
road was well away from the security fence. In fact, the
fence was nowhere in sight.
I spoke with many of the people in the street, asked
them why they had gathered, why they opposed the free
trade proposals. It was a lively but friendly exchange.
We were interrupted as the police down the road began an
eerie drumming, rattling their riot sticks against their
shields. Slowly, in unison, one six-inch step at a time,
they began marching toward us. Noreen and I moved to the
side of the street, as the protesters remained
stationary. Some formed V signs with their fingers.
To my horror, the police then fired tear gas canisters
directly at those sitting or standing on the road.
As clouds of gas began to spread, Noreen and I felt our
eyes sting and our throats bake. We pulled whatever
clothing we could across our mouths. One young woman,
who had been among the protesters, offered us some
vinegar. "What's that for?" I asked. "It takes away the
sting," she said. And it did help.
The police, however, kept advancing. One large policeman
with the number 5905 on his helmet, pressed right
against me and ordered me to get behind a railing. "I
haven't done anything," I protested. "Why?" He simply
replied: "Get behind the rail." Then he added, "and get
down." I did so.
I shook my head. I never thought I would ever see this
kind of police-state tactic in Canada. What we witnessed
that night was mild compared to events the next afternoon.
This time, walked along the fence until we reached the
gate at René Lévesque Boulevard, where a great crowd
had gathered that included TV cameras and reporters. I
was asked for an interview by a CBC crew but, before we
could begin, dozens of tear gas canisters were fired,
water cannons were sprayed and rubber bullets began to hit
people nearby. Three times, I felt I could not breathe, my
eyes were sore and all I could do was run. In the bedlam,
my wife and I were separated for almost three hours. She
said she had almost passed out from the gassing.
We lost something else, besides each other, last weekend
in Quebec: our innocence. This government, and some
reporters, like to brand the Quebec City demonstrators
as "hooligans." That is not fair. I talked to dozens of them,