The RCMP has confirmed that a so-called ‘free speech area’ will be located in ‘a vacant lot’ beside the Musée de Charlevoix which is almost 2 kilometres from the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, the luxury hotel where the Justin Trudeau, Donald Trump and the other G7 leaders are scheduled to meet on June 8-9.
The RCMP says, “The designated free expression area, where people can exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, will be on a vacant lot located near the museum and protected area in La Malbaie.” That’s about 1.4 kilometres away by foot, 1.9 kilometres by car.
The RCMP also says (as seen in the photo below), “A fence will be erected between Chemin du Havre and Rue des Carrières.”
The Council of Canadians has opposed previous ‘free speech zones’, notably at the time of the North American Leaders’ summit in Montebello, Quebec (in August 2007) and the G20 summit in Toronto (in June 2010).
That’s in part because the report by retired judge Ted Hughes that came out of the public inquiry into police violence at the 1997 APEC summit in Vancouver stated that people have the right to “see and be seen” by “visiting leaders”.
The RCMP solution in Montebello was to have an audio/video feed of the designated protest area streamed into the summit (presumably with the fictional notion that the G7 leaders could watch that feed during their meeting). The ‘designated protest area’ for the G20 summit in Toronto was on the north lawn of Queen’s Park, almost three kilometres away from where the leaders were meeting.
At the time of the G20 summit in Toronto, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association stated, “Freedom of expression is protected throughout Canada: our country, and all of Toronto is a ‘free speech zone’. Protesters cannot be prevented from demonstrating outside of the ‘designated demonstration area’, particularly when the area set aside is situated in a place that is so remote from the meetings that protesters cannot be directly seen or heard by the leaders. Therefore, it is appropriate for the police to acknowledge publicly the right of protesters. Language suggesting that protesters are strongly encouraged to gather in the free speech zones is inappropriate.”
Earlier this month, the CBC reported, “Hosting top world leaders at the upcoming G7 summit in Quebec’s picturesque Charlevoix region is expected to cost Canadian taxpayers $224.6 million dollars. According to spending estimates tabled [by Treasury Board president Scott Brison on February 12], the price tag for hosting the gathering of world leaders, and the meetings leading up to it, will be steep.”
That article adds, “Security provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is expected to eat up $125 million of that budget on its own. ‘The majority of the funding … will support security measures, including deployment of RCMP and military personnel, support of provincial police and necessary equipment. Funding will also be used for logistical needs such as leasing of space, temporary staff and upgrades to the local communication network.’ For example, the Public Safety department will get $18.9 million and National Defence will receive $9.6 million to help the RCMP ensure security at the event.”
To put this in context, it will cost about $11.2 million to build a new water treatment plant and related infrastructure at the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation near Port Perry, Ontario. This First Nation has had irregular access to clean drinking water since 2008. It is not a stretch to say that the cost of the two-day G7 summit could instead be used to build 20 water treatment plants on First Nations across this country.
The Council of Canadians rejects ‘free speech areas’, defends the freedom of expression, says that Trump is not welcome in Canada (you can add your name to our petition here), and argues that the United Nations in New York is a more appropriate location for G-195 summits (that include all countries, not just the richest ones).