Grand Prix free event cancelled over protest threats
Protest threats have forced Canadian Grand Prix organizers in Montreal to cancel a free opening day event because of security concerns.
Organizers cancelled the open house event, which was scheduled for Thursday, citing security concerns for the fans and the drivers.
Grand Prix promoter Francois Dumontier spoke to CTV Montreal about the factors that led to the cancellation of the open house event.
"It's free admission and we thought with all the threats that we've been receiving against the Grand Prix it's the best decision to take," he said
Dumontier said the rest of the Grand Prix events will go on as planned.
The Formula One race – which brings in an estimated $100 million in revenue for the city -- is not the only event potentially threatened by the student protests.
The Just for Laughs comedy festival is also feeling the effects of the student protests, with ticket sales to this year's event down nearly 50 per cent.
Concerns over low spectator turnout prompted festival president Gilbert Rozan to arrange a meeting with the student leaders to discuss security.
Rozan said he wants the students to promise festival goers that there will be no violence.
News of the cancellation of the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve open house at the Formula One event came the same day as one student group attempted to alleviate concerns about the ongoing protests, saying demonstrators aim to be visible, not disruptive.
Martine Desjardins, president of the Federation etudiante universitaire Quebec (FEUQ), told CTV's Question Period Sunday that her group has no intention of disrupting the auto race.
Instead the group plans to keep a visible presence at the events and use them as opportunities to keep citizens informed.
"We'll be going for a lot of demonstration and action, symbolic action this summer, but our goal is not to disturb any festival or the Grand Prix. Of course not," Desjardins said.
Desjardins said gaining the support and sympathy of the public was key to the students' fight.
"We'll have to make sure the population is behind us because that's the way we're going to solve this conflict," Desjardins said.
"I think if we do more demonstration and more information with the public, we'll be able to put more pressure on the government, making sure they will go back at the table to negotiate as soon as possible with us."
But the more militant student group CLASSE has suggested the race be used as a platform for the protesters' demonstrations over tuition fees.
Quebec Premier Jean Charest would not comment on the news of the cancellation or the low ticket sales at the Just for Laughs festival.
Charest has been critical of threats towards the Grand Prix.
Organizers say the rest of the Grand Prix events will continue as scheduled. More than 300,000 spectators are expected to attend the June 8-10 event.
The student protests have consumed Quebec for nearly four months and pitted students and other sympathetic citizens against Charest's government.
It has also resulted in the provincial government invoking Bill 78, a law that aims to quell the protests.
The student-led protests have turned into a platform of social unrest in the province's largest city. It has also lead to violent confrontations between police and students, sparking hundreds of arrests.
Meanwhile, students in Ontario have designated June 5 as a day of action in Toronto where they plan to rally in support of the ongoing Quebec protests.
With a report from CTV Montreal's Mark Shalhoub