Quebec City police play down fears of violence ahead of G7 protests

Canadian law enforcement authorities are maintaining the country's threat level at medium as they prepare for planned protests in Quebec City to coincide with the G7 summit in La Malbaie, Que., next month.

Authorities expecting some protesters to seek confrontations with police

The prospect of large demonstrations in Quebec City for next month's G7 summit has many locals fearing a repeat of the damage caused during anti-globalization protests in 2001. (Kevin Frayer/Canadian Press)

Canadian law enforcement authorities are maintaining the country's threat level at medium as they prepare for planned protests in Quebec City to coincide with the G7 summit in La Malbaie, Que., next month.

Officials from the RCMP, the Sûreté du Québec and the Quebec City police service told residents that, so far, no extra precautions are needed, even though thousands of protesters are expected in the province's capital between June 7 and 9.

The G7 summit is being held in La Malbaie, in the Charlevoix region, about 150 kilometres east of Quebec City, but given that security will be tight around the secluded location, protesters are expected to gather in the provincial capital instead.

"The threat level is currently medium," Quebec City's police chief, Robert Pigeon, said Wednesday at a news conference. 

"What we are dealing with is a situation as normal: people who want to express their opinions in the public space. At the same time, we expect these groups to be infiltrated by ill-intentioned people." 

Pigeon appeared to be referring to the commonly used "black bloc" tactic, in which black-clad demonstrators seek out physical confrontations with police. 

He said his expectations were based on tactics seen in previous demonstrations, as well as information gathered by law enforcement.

Canada's threat level has been at medium since October 2014. It was raised after a Canadian soldier was killed in a terror attack in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.

Lessons learned from 2001 

Some residents and business owners in Quebec City have expressed concerns about the prospect of violence and vandalism during the G7 demonstrations.

Many recall the 2001 Summit of the Americas, when more than 30,000 people gathered in the city to protest against a potential continental free-trade pact.

A security fence was erected around the summit site. It became a flashpoint and was eventually toppled when police clashed with the protesters. The city was engulfed in tear gas, and damages were estimated at $3.4 million.

Police were criticized for their heavy use of tear gas during the 2001 Summit of the Americas in Quebec City. (Kevin Frayer/Canadian Press)

"Things have changed greatly since [then]. We're adapting today to 2018," said Jason Allard, a spokesperson for the SQ.

Police said they have no immediate plans to erect any fences for next month's demonstrations, though a security perimeter will be established around the National Assembly buildings.

Between 8,000 and 9,000 police officers are expected to be on duty during the summit. Police said they don't yet have a firm idea of how many protesters to expect.