'It was a crazy situation': Regina woman caught up in Quebec protest
'I thought Canadians don't just beat on each other because we don't agree on things,' says Messer-Lepage
While on a work trip to Quebec City this week, Regina resident Jacquie Messer-Lepage found herself in the middle of clashing protests that turned violent.
Far-right group La Meute, which believes Quebec culture and society are threatened by radical Islam, had organized a rally on Sunday in response to the sudden spike in asylum seekers crossing the Quebec border.
Anti-racism and anti-fascism protesters organized a counter-demonstration.
The counter-demonstration began peacefully, but was declared illegal by police when protesters jostled with authorities and threw projectiles at members of La Meute.
Messer-Lepage walked out of her hotel in the afternoon and found herself in the middle of the mayhem.
She said there were many police officers in the area and she heard what sounded like the popping of fireworks. The officers were walking arm in arm with shields in front of them as they moved toward the crowd.
Messer-Lepage said people were pushing and shoving, hitting each other with sticks and throwing bottles.
"At one point, I saw a guy get pushed down and then a group of people just started pounding on him," she said.
"It was really surreal. It was just like you would see on American television but I had never experienced anything like this in Canada."
The crowd, which Messer-Lepage said she was about 15 metres away from, started running toward where she was. She left when police threw tear gas and she was affected by it.
"It was a crazy situation," Messer-Lepage said.
She said she was surprised the counter-protesters appeared more violent than the anti-immigration group.
Messer-Lepage, who is an immigrant herself, said she experienced racism growing up, but nothing extreme ever happened because of it.
"I really thought Canadians don't just beat on each other because we don't agree on things," Messer-Lepage said.
"Maybe there is a pervasive, underlying racism that exists and now society is changing in a way that it's now become somewhat permissible to act on this in public.
"It's really sad. It makes you think twice when you're a person that is not Canadian born, maybe not white."
With files from CBC Radio's Afternoon Edition