As is routine whenever the leaders of the Group of Seven or G7 countries gather, Quebec City is bracing for protests. But its inhabitants are taking the high-level meeting and the protests in stride.
On the eve of the G7 summit, with a major protest rally against the meeting slated to end not far from Au Petit Coin Breton, the traditional creperie in the Quebec City's old town that has been in her family for more than 50 years, Patricia Rolin was upbeat.
"I am not worried,” she said, standing in her restaurant when asked whether she wasn't concerned that if the anti-G7 march planned for Thursday evening turned violent, as feared by many, her family's creperie with its glass-front windows might bare the brunt of rage.
Wouldn't it be safer to board up her storefront and close shop early for one day or perhaps even for the whole weekend, as some other shops in the Quebec City's old town had done?
No, said Rolin, she didn't think that was necessary. She believed that the protests would not be as bad as in 2012 when students here protested against rising fees. And it certainly would not be as bad as the protests against the Summit of the Americas 2001 here which was one of the biggest anti-globalization rallies at the time where thousands of protesters clashed often violently with police.
And what's more, she said, local officials had urged her and other store owners not to board up their shops and instead to keep them open. And for Rolin that made sense. First, because she felt that the police this time was well prepared for the protests and that probably not too many protesters would show up anyway. And second, she noted, what kind of anti-globalization protester would vandalize an old-timey creperie?
Sure, business was already slow for a Thursday and the weekend would probably be even slower, "but a little bit is still better than nothing,” said Rolin.
Carole Gagni, who had worked as a server at Au Petit Coin Breton, for more than two decades agreed with her boss. "I am coming to work tomorrow.”
Good publicity for Charlevoix?
While they regretted the lost revenue during the upcoming weekend, they supported both the G7 summit, held close by in the rural Charlevoix, as well as the protests against it.
"It is good publicity for Charlevoix,” said Rolin, something that this small Quebec town could definitely use. But she also backed the protesters right to take to the streets against the G7 meeting.
"I don't mind that they protest. It is their right,” she said. She just resented some of the people among the legitimate protesters who just come looking for trouble and violence.
It was precisely the fear of those violent protesters that caused her supervisor to decide to board up the store and close early on Thursday, said Stefany, a sales associate in a fashion boutique in old town Quebec City not far from Rolin's creperie.
Stefany, who did not want give her last name, said some of her coworkers were afraid and that's why her supervisor decided to close early on Thursday. "Better safe than sorry,” she said, before adding that she personally did not think that the protests would get out of hand.
"No border, no nation, stop the deportations"
When the march against the G7, supported by dozens of Quebec-based groups, finally took to the streets of Quebec City, the crowd, estimated between 300 and 500 people, was not only much smaller than expected, but also flanked by a massive police presence on the ground and helicopters in the air.
Chanting slogans like "no border, no nation, stop the deportations” the rally which included a sizeable group of so-called black block protesters ended peacefully, and somewhat symbolically near Quebec's parliament building and steps from the temporary massive press center for journalists covering the G7.
"This kind of meeting is anti-democratic,” said Mathieu, of the Reseau de resistance anti-G7, one of the groups behind the protests. The leader of the seven countries present talk behind closed doors and make decisions that impact the whole world without input from civil society, he noted.
"Donald Trump is a joke"
Asked how he felt about US President Donald Trump's presence at the G7 in Quebec, Mathieu, said: "Donald Trump is a joke. It's his first time here in Canada and that's a good reason to demonstrate for sure,” he added.
That might be something that creperie owner Rolin could agree with as well. "Donald Trump says a lot of stupid things,” she said. But she noted, if he can somehow get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons he will win the Nobel Peace Prize, she predicted. "That would be funny.”