Vol. 80, No. 2Cover stories

Two female police officers speaking to a man.

Small town, big event

Officers provide link between residents and G7 organizers

Two G7 community relations officers chat with a resident about the upcoming summit in La Malbaie, Que. Credit: Quebec RCMP


When it's your country's turn to host a massive international event that will be the focus of the world, one thing on your long to-do list is to keep the locals informed.

This year, from June 8-9, the G7 Summit will be held at Le Manoir Richelieu in La Malbaie, Que., which is located in the Charlevoix region.

To provide the most up-to-date information to local residents, organizers sent four police officers — two from the RCMP and two from the Sûreté du Québec — into La Malbaie last September. Their role is to act as a link between the community and the G7's Integrated Security Unit (ISU).

Meet the people

La Malbaie Mayor Michel Couturier says the community relations officers have become well known in the town of about 9,000, which is about 140 kilometres northeast of Quebec City.

"I find all of the residents' questions have been answered and, in a community like ours, it's easy to start a rumour," says Couturier. "With their presence, there's no place for rumour."

One of the first things Cpl. Isabelle Michaud and Cst. Ann Marcotte — the RCMP's community-relations officers — did when they arrived was to correct any misconceptions about the summit.

"We opened our office and we invited people to come in and ask us questions about the security aspect," says Marcotte, noting there was speculation the perimeter fence around Le Manoir Richelieu would be enormous, businesses would be forced to close and some people would have to leave town. "We killed a lot of rumours. If we weren't here people would be wondering: What's going on?"

As well, the officers, who moved to the community for the summit, have held information sessions with a variety of local groups, completed interviews with media and held so-called coffee-with-a-cop sessions where they heard basic questions such as how can residents get around town during the summit.

"Sometimes it's really informal," says Michaud. "We're really about promoting awareness."

And when questions can't be answered, the pair sends off emails to the ISU's public affairs and communications officer for more information. "When the answers come back, we find the person and provide the response," says Michaud.

What about protests?

The event marks the first time President Donald Trump will set foot in Canada. During the summit, the controversial U.S. leader could act as a magnet — drawing protesters and activists to the region.

Michaud says she's fielded some questions about potential protests, but not because of the U.S. leader. "People just want to know where they [the protests] are going to be," she says.

During the summit, security officials have designated an area for peaceful protests near the town's museum and protected area.

The mayor notes that recent Canadian-hosted G7 summits, such as Huntsville, Ont., in 2010 and Kananaskis, Alta., in 2002, experienced small demonstrations.

"It's more risky to have these things in big cities than here," Couturier says. "Here, we will have some protesters but I think maybe Quebec [City] will have more."

If anything, Couturier says people are happy to see all the G7 leaders in the region.

"I think the feeling is that the people are proud to receive an event like this. We have a long tradition here of hospitality . . . and we've developed a big tourism economy. To receive an event like this a confirmation the quality of our community," he says.

Couturier adds the community relations officers have done a lot of work to prepare everyone.

"The more we approach the event, I realize the importance of their ability to stay in touch with citizens of La Malbaie," he says.

When the summit ends, and all the leaders, media and protesters have left, the community-relations officers will stick around a little longer.

"We're going to stay behind and assess things," says Michaud.

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