QUEBEC (CP) - A giant metal fence that has been put up around four kilometres of downtown Quebec City for security at the Summit of the Americas can stay, a judge ruled Wednesday.
The fence is a reasonable limit to impose in a free and democratic society considering the event and past violence at similar meetings, Justice Gilles Blanchet of Quebec Superior Court said in a written decision. However, Blanchet did note in his 30-page judgment that the fence does impose some restrictions on individual freedoms.
Quebec City's Chateau Frontenac hotel is seen behind the security perimeter for the Summit of the Americas. (CP/Jacques Boissinot)
Montreal lawyer Marc Tremblay, who went to court to get the fence dismantled, said he doesn't agree with the judgment.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed with the decision," Tremblay told Radio-Canada's all-news channel, RDI.
Tremblay said he's not out to destroy property or cause a fuss but he wants more openness at the summit. He also has said he wants to protest at the summit because he believes Canadians are being left in the dark during the summit to promote freer trade.
Security officials installed the metal fence around the downtown core, where leaders of 34 countries will meet beginning Friday to negotiate an extended free-trade pact.
The fence is expected to keep protesters at bay and avoid the violence that derailed international trade talks in Seattle in 1999.
Tremblay had argued that the fence should be taken down because it violated his constitutionally guaranteed rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of movement.
He plans to appeal the verdict even if it's too late to have the fence torn down before the summit, said an intervener in the case.
"The fence is a symbol of the destruction of our rights," said Clara Fogal, a director at the Defence of Canadian Liberty Committee.
"The summit is only here today, gone tomorrow. We are defending the rights of Canadians."
The committee and one of its constitutional experts argued the case alongside Tremblay. Fogal said the case may one day end up before the Supreme Court.
Seeking to avoid violent demonstration, police are planning what they call the largest security operation in Canadian history.
Residents inside the security perimeter will need special access passes to enter their homes this weekend.
Fogal said Canada has no rights to impose such drastic security measures unless the federal government invokes special legislation.
"We have mechanisms in our system on how to apply such security," she said in an interview.
"There are steps that have to be taken that guarantee the protection of citizens."
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