Quebec Diary

by Jennifer Berkshire

April 20 Too Much Trouble

More details continue to surface regarding the six `activists` seized by Canadian police earlier this week. According to a spokesperson for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the six are “leaders of a violent anarchist cell,“ and may belong to an anarchist movement that wears black uniforms and has a special logo: a capital A in a circle with a slash through it.

Police found several items of interest within the seized anti-globalization swag. A helmet decorated with a hammer-and-sickle symbol was all it took to convince the Mounties that they were on to something big. Then they found stacks of an anarchist propaganda sheet called `Trouble.`

The black rag is printed by a collective in Montreal; `Trouble` is short hand for the group`s self professed mission – the `search for trouble.` The journal – which has an on-line version – specializes in lengthy critiques of the state, the police and capitalism. “Smoke a joint, smash the state!“ screamed one headline.

In response to an interview request, a National Post received the following e-mail from a member of the `Trouble` collective. “Oh so you think we`re so intriguing like a wild animal in a cage. Why don`t you come to Montreal to feed us peanuts? After that, maybe we will have an elephant riot. Maybe just maybe we`ll talk to you … we’re all total junkies and selling `Trouble` hardly covers da cost of our drug habits.`

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April 19 Borders

The border that separates New England from Quebec is a busy place these days. The volume of trade between the two regions has skyrocketed since the passage of NAFTA, and major crossings are choked with commercial truck traffic.

But at the main border crossings this week, pedestrian traffic all but ground to a standstill. Canadian immigration officials have routinely held for hours activists heading up to Quebec City for protests against the Summit of the Americas.

Don Rama, a pipefitter at the Bath Iron Works in Maine and a member of the Machinists union, spent 3 hours being searched and interrogated at the crossing in Jackman, ME on Monday night. “They spent hours just going through my truck,“ said Rama, who volunteers as a firefighter in his hometown of Wiscasset. Rama`s firefighting equipment ? extinguishers, a helmet, and protective blankets were enough to tip off the officials. This man was trouble. They eventually let him over the border, but only after he agreed to leave his firefighting equipment behind in Maine.

On Tuesday, officials at the Derby crossing in Vermont found more suspects in the form of union members from IUE-CWA Local 201 the union representing workers at the GE aircraft engines plant in Lynn, MA. The group was held for two hours while officials conducted extensive background searches. Their search proved fruitful: Jeff Crosby, the President of the Local had been arrested for participating in a protest against the Vietnam war in 1971. A rank-and-file union member had been caught with LSD in his possession 25 years ago. “We love Canada,“ said Crosby. “We come up here all the time.“

The two finally made it across the border on Thursday, but only after union activists in Canada and the US launched a major public campaign. The bad news: the `Derby 2` had to pay $200 to get into Quebec. The good news: that money is refundable.

? Fame Pays

Weeks ago, immigration officials announced that an `all-points bulletin` had been sent to all of Canada`s ports of entry, warning staff to be on the look out for Jose Bove, the famed French opponent of `malbouffe.` But on Wednesday, the `moustachioed sheep farmer` appeared in the flesh, surrounded by dozens of photographers and TV cameras.

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“Isn`t he handsome?“ a reporter from a Quebec City daily asked me. “He looks just like that French cartoon character.“ I nodded, sending Jose a friendly smile.

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During his press conference, Bove defended the `breaking of windows` by those protesting free trade and assailed the `true violence` of the market. He made his point. A Montreal daily announced today that all McDonalds restaurants near the security perimeter in Old Quebec will be closed during the Summit Protests.

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The Battle of Kursk

Among those items `discovered` by Royal Canadian Mounted Police in their roundup of six protesters yesterday was a copy of `the Battle of Kursk,` an account of the biggest tank battle in world history. Police are apparently still searching for the tanks themselves.

? April 18 Canadian Border Crackdown May Keep Bush from Trade Summit

QUEBEC CITY — Tough new enforcement of immigration laws at the Canadian border has prompted concern that President George W. Bush may have trouble entering the country for the Summit of the Americas, scheduled to begin on Friday.

In preparation for the Summit, authorities have implemented unprecedented security precautions at the border, including checking the arrest records of every entrant into Canada. Now, say some officials, those measures may even be extended to Summit participants including George W. Bush.

“We are looking for any history of criminal activity, any evidence that a certain individual may be harmful to himself or the Canadian people,” said Francois de Rigaud, an immigration official in Quebec.

Yesterday, border police at the Derby crossing in Vermont refused entrance to a prominent New England labor leader, on the grounds that he had been arrested during a Vietnam-era protest in 1971.

The exclusion of the labor official, who was to have participated in an international pre-Summit meeting starting last night, has triggered speculation that President Bush himself may have difficulty crossing the border, due to a conviction for drunken driving in 1976.

“We`re obviously concerned,” said one Republican party leader close to the President. “We weren`t aware that the Canadians were going to be checking records.”

Asked earlier this year about the DUI arrest, President Bush expressed sorrow over the incident. “I regret drinking while intoxicated,” he said, “but I was never under anybody`s influence at the time.” CP

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