SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — After a tumultuous weekend of tension and confrontation between demonstrators and fans of Formula One racing in Montreal, riot police easily outnumbered protesters at Monday's International Economic Forum of the Americas.
Only a handful of protesters were demonstrating outside the downtown hotel where Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney delivered speeches about global economic issues.
Protesters were heckling delegates as they arrived Monday morning, and police had set up a security line at the downtown Montreal conference centre where the four days of meetings are being held.
Although only about a dozen protesters showed up early Monday, riot police formed a cordon around the hotel. Two nearby mini-buses packed with heavily armoured provincial police suggested cops were prepared for many more.
A scheduled speech by former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Allan Greenspan is expected to be the focus of a more boisterous protest Wednesday.
Protester Priscillia Laplante told The Canadian Press why demonstrators are taking what began as a protest against planned university tuition hikes in Quebec to a forum of political, economic and regulatory officials from around the world.
Singling out Harper's approach to economic issues, Laplante said his and similar policies from leaders around the world are taking a disproportionate toll on poorer people.
He goes completely against what the middle and lower classes believe right now," Laplante said.
"It's no longer just a question of education, it's a question of rights, it's a question of social class and we believe it should be fair for everybody. I think that if we look for solutions together, it will be possible to find them."
In his speech at the forum, Harper said countries don't have to choose between fiscal discipline and economic growth. What the world needs is a practical approach that combines the two – essentially the Canadian approach, he said.
Harper said he intends to take that message to the upcoming G20 summit in Mexico. He also applauded Europe's decision over the weekend to lend Spain up to $125 billion to shore up its banking system, even though Canada has refused to provide further funding to the International Monetary Fund to deal with the European debt crisis.
Monday's seemingly muted protests in Montreal come after a weekend that saw dozens of demonstrators detained and arrested throughout the city.
The protests have now prompted calls for an independent inquiry into the police handling of the event's security.
Montreal police expelled 40 people and arrested 34 others on Sunday, in a security crackdown that encompassed both the Ste-Helene Island site of the Canadian Grand Prix and the nearby underground metro transit system.
The police search and detention operation involved officers and sniffer dogs conducting random searches of people on the subway and among the crowds entering the race grounds.
An estimated 110,000 spectators made their way to the island site of the Formula One weekend's final race.
But the fact many stopped on the metro or turned away from Jean Drapeau Park were wearing the red square emblem of the province's student protest movement fuelled charges of police profiling.
At a press conference Monday morning, the Quebec student group CLASSE said it had heard from approximately 100 people who said they were victims of preventive detentions and political profiling.
"What we've been seeing these last few weeks, and what we saw this weekend in particular, is really without precedent," CLASSE co-spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois told reporters, condemning what he said were illegal searches, many conducted by police who had hidden their ID numbers.
"We're talking about systematic searches in the subway and in the streets of people who were wearing the red square. It's extremely worrying for our democracy."
Protester Priscillia Laplante believes the Harper government's policies are squeezing poorer people in Canada.
"He goes completely against what the middle and lower classes believe right now," said Laplante, who also wants to send a message to conference delegates and Quebec Premier Jean Charest.
"It's no longer just a question of education, it's a question of rights, it's a question of social class and we believe it should be fair for everybody.
"I think that if we look for solutions together, it will be possible to find them."
Harper touts Canadian method
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in his speech that what the world needs is a practical approach that combines budgetary discipline and other growth measures -- essentially the Canadian approach.
It's a message the prime minister says he intends to take as Canada's position at the upcoming G20 summit in Mexico.
The prime minister applauded European efforts on the weekend to shore up Spain's banking system, saying he was encouraged by the agreement.
He says it demonstrates that Europeans are able to undertake measures among themselves.
Canada and the United States are among the countries that have refused to provide funding to help Europeans get past their financial challenges. —www.shafaqna.com