Quebec City, June 7, 2018 – On the eve of the G7 Summit in Quebec, Amnesty International Canada Francophone Branch (AICF) and the Quebec Civil Liberties Union (QCLU, known in French as the Ligue des droits et libertés) have issued a progress report on their mission to monitor respect for civil liberties at this event. The two organizations announced this mission on April 18, 2018 and have obtained certain assurances from the authorities since then, but remain concerned about a number of issues.
Discussions with Quebec government officials
Quebec’s Minister of Public Security, Martin Coiteux, has recognized this joint mission and agreed to its request to ensure that it can be carried out successfully. More specifically, the Minister has assured the mission that the necessary steps will be taken “so that independent observers can move about within the security perimeter as well as in the various detention centres,” and the mission’s team of observers has obtained the credentials needed for this purpose. The mission has also established communication channels with the Sûreté du Québec (Quebec provincial police) to facilitate its interactions with them throughout the G7.
As Nicole Filion, coordinator for the QCLU, explains, “The police have told us that they have learned from the mistakes made in the past, in particular in their response to the protests at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in 2001 and the Maple Spring throughout Quebec in 2012,[AD1] for which they were strongly criticized both within Canada and internationally. The objective of our monitoring mission is to ensure that the police meet the commitments that they have given us, both at the demonstrations themselves and at the centres where demonstrators may be detained.”
About the demonstrations
Ms. Filion continues, “We have noted a change in tone in the statements from the police, who tell us that they want to avoid using force and making any arrests without adequate grounds. But some of the preparations that the authorities have publicly announced for the G7 Summit, as well as our discussions with the provincial detention facility in Quebec City (Établissement de détention de Québec), confirm that mass arrests are widely expected.
“We are concerned to note that some of the weapons that might be used—in particular rubber-ball blast grenades (RBBGs) and blunt impact projectiles (BIPs)—are potentially lethal. We also still have not received certain information that we want to have about the weapons that may be used and the conditions under which they may be used.”
About the detention centres
Members of the mission who have visited the temporary detention centres (formally, “offender processing operations centres”) set up for the G7 say that in theory, they have been designed to avoid some of the serious violations of civil liberties that have occurred at the G20 in Toronto and elsewhere (for example, these centres have infirmaries and spaces where detainees can have access to lawyers). But as AICF Executive Director Geneviève Paul states, “If, contrary to what we have been told to expect, there are mass—and hence, arbitrary, abusive arrests—the various planned scenarios for transferring detainees pose risks of other rights violations, such as prolonged detention in buses without access to toilets. We have already raised these concerns in our discussions with the police authorities.”
Lastly, for AICF and the QCLU to ensure that the stated principles are applied in practice, it is essential for the observers to be able to speak directly with the persons being held in the detention centres. But despite the mission’s repeated requests for such access, it appears that observers will be forbidden to interact with these individuals until they have been released. This is unfortunate, because the presence of observers would enable the provincial police to correct, in real time, any problems that might arise, in keeping with the spirit of the agreement that the two organizations have obtained from the provincial detention facility in Quebec City.
A necessary mission
Amnesty International Canada and the Quebec Civil Liberties Union acknowledge the efforts that the police have made to cooperate and provide responsive liaison with them. But both groups are disturbed by the ambiguous language that the police have used, and fear that in the coming days, police actions in the field may not live up to the commitments that have been made, Members of the public must be able to come demonstrate without having to fear for their rights.
Summing up, the QCLU’s Ms Filion states, “We are concerned about certain statements that have been made in the public space that stoke fears of the demonstrators by generalizing from the actions of some marginal individuals. We want to remind everyone that at previous summits, it has been the police who have been found at fault for violating people’s rights. The figures show that in the vast majority of the many cases where people were arrested, the arrests were unjustified. Out of the 1100 people arrested at the G20, only 6% were ever charged with an offence.”
More about the AICF/QCLU joint mission to monitor civil liberties
The AICF/QCLU joint mission is composed of some 40 individuals from various backgrounds, most of them members of these two organizations. All of them have received the same sound, mandatory basic training and have made a commitment to respect the principle of neutrality. Both of these organizations have many years of experience in documenting violations of human rights, and many members of this mission have participated in similar missions in the past.
As AICF Executive Director Geneviève Paul underscores, “The observers also have a duty to avoid conversations with the media. The observers’ role is to gather all the information that is relevant to people’s civil rights and provide this information to the team that will compile and analyze it. Our teams are in place in Quebec City and La Malbaie. We plan to deploy the monitoring mission from June 6 to June 9, at those locations where the presence of neutral observers in the context of the G7 would be justified.”
Follow us on Twitter @MissionG7.
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For information and interviews:
Lysiane Roch, Communications Officer
Anne Sainte-Marie, Communications Officer, AICF
514-766-9766, Ext. 230 or Cell 514 268-4983
[AD1]Les liens fournis dans le texte français ne fonctionnent pas, et sont censés mener en tout cas à des documents de la LDL qui sont publiés en français exclusivement.