Montebello update: Thousands protest, the police provoke as the Council puts the SPP on the map, August 24, 2007

Parliament Hill rally

Musicians at rally

Public forum crowd

Public forum speakers

Council delivers petitions
in Montebello


Montebello update: Thousands protest, the police provoke as the Council puts the SPP on the map

August 24, 2007

Thousands of people took to Parliament Hill on Sunday and to the streets of Montebello, Quebec on Monday and Tuesday. They came bearing protest signs and petitions, some in costume, others bearing food for hungry protesters. It was a colourful and creative crowd, unified by their demand that the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America be brought to the public and Parliament for a full debate. Whether it was a group of Raging Grannies, union activists or university students, the question on everyone’s lips was, “whose security and prosperity is the SPP protecting?”

The Council of Canadians was on the ground, both in Ottawa and Montebello, as U.S. President George Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderón met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. We brought hundreds of people together at a public forum on Sunday evening, packing an auditorium at the University of Ottawa. Maude Barlow, along with civil society representatives from the U.S. and Mexico, condemned the SPP and promoted a vision of a more just and sustainable North America.

We had of course originally planned to hold the forum in Papineauville, Quebec, just 6 kilometres from where the leaders met on Monday and Tuesday, but the RCMP forced the municipality to cancel our reservation at the last minute. So we made due with a smaller room in Ottawa, and unfortunately had to turn away at least 100 people on Sunday night, as people stood and crouched in the aisles of the auditorium, hungry for more information about the SPP and how to fight it. Visit, to download audio and video footage from the forum.

Montebello bound
On Monday, we boarded the bus to Montebello, carrying more than 10,000 letters from Council of Canadians members, demanding a moratorium on SPP negotiations and a debate with the public about its implications for Canadians. We had originally negotiated with the RCMP to drop the letters at the gates of the Chateau Montebello. But on Monday, we received an email from the RCMP indicating that the Department of Foreign Affairs was preventing us from delivering the letters to the gates.

Instead, the Council of Canadians led a march of about 1,200 people along the streets of Montebello. We parked our boxes of letters in front of a line of security personnel in riot gear, and led the crowd in a chant, “No to the SPP. Yes to democracy!” In doing so, we joined with Council activists in 30 communities across Canada who participated in our National Day of Action Against the SPP.

This week’s protests helped put the SPP on the political map in a big way. All of the major political parties (with the exception of Harper’s Conservatives) have been critical of the SPP and the secrecy behind it. And on Monday, the North American Competitiveness Council – the all-CEO advisory group that has been intimately involved in the development of the SPP – admitted that the legislatures of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico should “remain fully informed about progress and actively engaged in the process” of implementing the SPP. This is a far cry from our call for public scrutiny and debate, but we see it as recognition of the fact that citizens won’t stand for secrecy around the SPP anymore.

The Council of Canadians has also been front-and-centre in exposing the Quebec provincial police’s use of undercover “provocateurs” during the protests in Montebello.

As you may have read in today’s newspapers, the Sûreté du Québec has finally admitted that their agents infiltrated Monday’s demonstrations in Montebello. This came after Nanaimo Council of Canadians’ activist Paul Manly posted footage on YouTube of a scuffle between union activist Dave Coles and three masked men, one holding a rock. Manly’s video shows that when a crowd of peaceful activists suggested that the masked men were police provocateurs, they quickly shoved themselves behind a line of riot police, and were quietly arrested.

The video spread like wildfire, and soon after, a photo emerged, demonstrating that the masked “protesters” were wearing the same kind of boots as the riot police. Local activists kept close track of the protesters who were arrested in Montebello, and demanded that the police release the names of the three masked men, whose arrests have not shown up on record, anywhere.

Yesterday afternoon, the Council of Canadians posted an Action Alert on our website, demanding that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day get to the bottom of the controversy. Within hours, the SQ made their confession.

We will continue to follow this story in the coming weeks, demanding answers from the Quebec police, who claim that their officers did not attempt to provoke violence in Montebello. Manly’s footage seems to suggest otherwise.

We recommend that you keep checking our website daily, as we are constantly updating it with new information about the SPP, the Montebello summit, and actions you can take in your community. But in the meantime, here are some sights and sounds from Ottawa, Montebello, and across Canada:

If you’re still wondering what the SPP is all about, check out our brand-new report, Behind Closed Doors: What they're not telling us about the Security and Prosperity Partnership. We handed out more than 600 copies at our public forum on Sunday. We couldn’t keep it on the shelf!

As Maude Barlow said, “The stakes are very high here. And we have the opportunity not only to defeat something that is profoundly wrong for our peoples and for the sustainability of our planet, but to promote something very, very different.”

Click here to join the Council of Canadians. Help us fight the SPP and stand up for a better and fairer North America.