Proposed anti-terrorist fence rankles Que. town

Posted by admin on Apr 10th, 2008

Proposed anti-terrorist fence rankles Que. town. By Nelson Wyatt, THE CANADIAN PRESS

MONTREAL – People in Les Eboulements are ready to go to the wall over suggestions government officials might install an anti-terrorist fence to block off their local pier. “We don’t have problems with terrorists so far,” Serge Bernier, owner of a local art gallery and auberge, said with a laugh Wednesday.  Like many residents of the town of 1,250, Bernier is bewildered by the idea the wharf on the St. Lawrence River in Quebec’s Charlevoix region could be on a terrorist hit list.

“Putting a fence around the pier would be kind of stupid.”

Mayor Bertrand Bouchard is even more adamant that the pier, which is the heart of the town and a popular gathering spot, must remain open.

“Terrorists are going to go somewhere else before they’re going to come to the St-Joseph-de-la-Rive pier,” he said.

“We consider our town to be very peaceful and not in the sights of terrorists.”

The brouhaha stems from “worst-case scenario” plans shown to local officials recently by the provincial ferry regulator as it prepares for tighter federal security rules.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, forced airports and shipping installations across the United States and Canada to boost security – and even tiny Les Eboulements is not exempt from the planning.

Transport Canada and Quebec’s provincial ferry authority are urging everyone to calm down about any changes to security. Not a single fence post has been set in concrete yet.

Georges Farrah, president of the Societe des traversiers du Quebec, said there was opposition to the plans when he met with officials in Les Eboulements.

“When we showed them that plan they said it doesn’t make sense, no terrorist will come here,” he said.

“And they’re right on that but they forgot it was hypothetical. What we said was that is the worst scenario.”

Parish priest Jean Moisan said many people in the town are talking about the worst-case scenario, despite government assurances. Some have even discussed a sit-in to block construction if things go too far.

“It makes no sense,” the priest said.

Before now, the biggest threat to Les Eboulements was a 15-billion-tonne meteorite that landed behind the agricultural village about 350 million years ago. That left a crater 100 kilometres in length that is one of the town’s main tourist attractions.

Farrah noted Les Eboulements obviously doesn’t face the same level of threat as Montreal or Vancouver.

He insisted any plans are still a work in progress.

“We haven’t decided what we will do there because we are waiting for the federal government’s regulations on security.”

Federal officials maintain a fence is unlikely to be part of those rules.

“There was never an intention of putting up fences at Les Eboulements,” said Marie-Anyk Cote, a Transport Canada spokeswoman. “I don’t know where it came from.”

She said three places in Quebec are being considered for fences but nothing has been decided. Final measures will depend on the geographic location and the ferry service being offered.

“We appreciate the beautiful place that it is,” Cote said of Les Eboulements.

“It has to be evaluated on risk but this will be taken into consideration for sure.”

Bouchard says the town has been advertised as a peaceful, scenic and friendly place for 50 years. Even the local parish priest says the wharf’s a great place to hang out.

Provincial officials have assured Bouchard nothing will be done this year but he says they can count on him standing firm against the idea of a fence if it is ever raised.

“They told us they will not apply these measures in 2008,” he said.

“We told them, ‘Not in 2008, nor 2009 or at any time’.”

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