Quebec sovereignty group tasks dozens of burly guards for royal protest
QUEBEC - A fringe Quebec pro-independence group is tasking dozens of its burliest members to act as security guards for a protest planned for Prince William and Kate's upcoming visit to the province.
But the head of the Quebec Resistance Network insists his organization hasn't employed the imposing chaperones to clash with law enforcement.
Instead, Patrick Bourgeois says the bruisers will be there to ensure the weekend demonstration doesn't get out of control.
He says the guards were hand-picked based on brawn.
"Even myself, if they tell me what I to do — they're so big that I'm going to listen to them," Bourgeois told The Canadian Press in an interview Monday.
"We chose them based on build. There's no one in there who's 100 pounds soaking wet."
Bourgeois said protest organizers plan to cause civil disobedience during the royal visit — but no violence.
The group is expecting 300 protesters in the streets to denounce the monarchy during the royal couple's July 3 stop in Quebec City.
Bourgeois said his organization has selected around 40 people to act as security guards for the event, to keep radical protesters from making the situation ugly.
"If some moron shows up and provokes police — and is at the same time imperilling our plan and the safety of our supporters — we're definitely going to ensure this person is booted out of our demonstration," he said.
Bourgeois' organization led a rowdy anti-monarchy demonstration in 2009 during a visit to Montreal by Prince Charles and Camilla.
The protest delayed their arrival at a military ceremony by about a half-hour, and Charles and Camilla had to enter through a back door because of the raucous demonstators.
The group, known in French as the Reseau de resistance du Quebecois, also helped block the planned 2009 re-enactment of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and has protested the performance of Anglo songs at Quebec's Fete nationale holiday.
At the time of the Fete nationale protest, other audience members heckled the demonstrators.
Bourgeois casts this latest gesture as a political statement, on behalf of the independence movement.
The cause has suffered some political setbacks lately, with the collapse of the Bloc Quebecois at the federal level and divisions at the provincial level within the Parti Quebecois.
But one thing that won't be happening anytime soon, Bourgeois promised, is a bump-free visit to Quebec by the royals.
"If everything were to proceed in total harmony and William found nothing but balloons on his path, it's certain that the next day Canada would say: 'You see, the situation is evolving in Canada and Quebec. Quebec is now able to also appreciate the British monarchy.'"
In this province, the institution is viewed with more indifference than elsewhere in Canada — and even resentment, among those who see it as a painful reminder of Britain's conquest over their ancestors.
Quebec City was the site, on the Plains of Abraham in 1759, of a pivotal battle in that conquest during the Seven Years' War.
William and Kate are scheduled to visit the Citadelle — a fortified residence at the foot of those same plains, used frequently by governors general.
But the protest is not currently scheduled for that Citadelle stop. It is expected earlier in the day when William and Kate visit city hall.
Quebec City police do not intend, at this point, to establish a security perimeter outside city hall.
"We always need to be ready to adapt, based on the situation we see before us and how we see it evolving," said police spokeswoman Sandra Dion. "Even if you establish a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, things can always change."