>by Kim Elliott and Libby Davies
August 22, 2007
August 20, we were in Montebello, Quebec to voice our opposition to the
Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), and to the secret meetings
and agenda set by Stephen Harper, George W. Bush and Felipe Calderón.
Hundreds of community, labour, student and peace activists converged
next to the huge, metal security fence circling the resort, patrolled
by a massive show of police and security officers.
Earlier, Maude Barlow from the Council of Canadians and Barb Byers of
the Canadian Labour Congress led a march to the main gates of the
Chateau Montebello to deliver crates of petitions from
CanadiansCanadians from all walks of life, who want Harper to know he
has no mandate from the Canadian people to cook up such an agenda that
delivers Canada into a secretive and anti-democratic, corporate and
security laden world that violates our human rights and the health of
The SPP will only intensify corporate control and deny the crisis of global poverty, injustice and war.
To reach the protests, we walked along train tracks, through fields and
by a golf course for about two kilometres, having talked our way
through three security checkpoints with Peter Julian, MP for Burnaby
New Westminster and Trade/SPP Critic for the NDP. Traveling by car, it
is likely we would not have made it had Libby and Peter not been able
to show MP credentials.
Having been to APEC, the FTAA and other protests, we expected heavy
police presence; however, we did not expect to find that agents
provocateurs with rocks were apparently deliberately trying to subvert
peaceful, democratic protest. The bold intervention
of Dave Coles, President of Communications, Energy and Paperworkers
Union of Canada, captured on video by an activist from Nanaimo raises
some very serious questions about the role of the state in disrupting
A mainstream reporter asked if there was any point to being there,
protesting. The question implied that there is a predictable cycle of
security, protest and confrontation that has no real point. But there
is a point.
This heavy-handed form of security began with APEC in Vancouver in 1997
and the Quebec Summit of the Americas in 2001, and was designed to
protect leaders from public scrutiny and keep them hidden behind closed
doors and their agenda secret. The state creates an environment of
confrontation, assembling itself in an aggressive and anti-democratic
The expected confrontation happens (whether or not it is prematurely
provoked by agent provocateurs), and always among the pepper-sprayed
and arrested are student activists and young peoplesuch as the
journalist from Global Aware we met early in the day on Monday, who was
pepper-sprayed in an unprovoked incident (she had goggles just in case,
but had not anticipated the action and had not had time to pull them
over her face).
And the mainstream media story becomes predictable, unquestioning of what the protest is really about.
Exercising our democratic rights against an order that would otherwise
tell us that there is only one viewpoint is essential to defending
policy that needs to be made in public. Selecting 30 corporations to be
on the inside is the antithesis of democratic governance.
Thus, the mobilization of people, a genuine expression of democracy,
that the State itself wants to shut down, becomes an important tool to
raising consciousness about both the issue of the SPP and what it
entails, as well as the manner in which it is being carried out.
In that regard, these protests have a powerful message: that people
cannot be silenced. It was interesting to note both Bush and Harper in
their closing press conference, dismissed what they termed conspiracy
opposition theories, in an attempt to deflect the seriousness of
opposition that is mounting.
Protests like the one at Montebello are essential to a healthy
democracy. Bush, Harper and their cronies should think twice before
assuming they will get away with fooling the people: their actions will
inevitably have public consequences.
More images are available at the rabble.ca photo gallery.
Kim Elliott is publisher of rabble.ca. Libby Davies, MP for Vancouver East, is the NDP House Leader.