LA MALBAIE, QUE. — There are two parallel realities coexisting in La Malbaie this week, a small suburb of Charlevoix, Quebec, which is hosting the G7 summit. On one side, it is a militaristic security zone. On the other side, except for all the police cars on the street, the residents are only vaguely aware that something is happening.
The RCMP-led integrated security force has erected a fence stretching 1.5 km around the Manoir Richelieu, a luxury hotel in the Pointe-au-Pic neighbourhood. No one is allowed entry, other than staff working for the G7 and the approximately 800 people who live or work inside the perimeter.
Armed military personnel and security cameras are everywhere, and unmarked vehicles are coming and going.
A few kilometres away, downtown La Malbaie seems barely affected by the event. HuffPost Québec spoke with many people on the street there, who generally felt that the event had no real effect on their daily lives.
"It doesn't affect any regular activities. It's just as quiet as before, and you might think nothing was happening, in spite of the influx of police officers, security guards, Mounties. They're so well hidden we mostly don't see them. Everything is happening at Pointe-au-Pic," said Marie-Thérèse Belay.
For several residents, this police presence was the only major indication that something was even happening. Some residents were subject to vehicle searches.
"Of course there are some people who have things to hide. So for them, it could cause some stress," said a local named Sébastien.
He added that they need to watch out for the military convoys that often go through red lights.
But some people are happy to see all the police officers, and summit personnel. Some of the businesses on Saint-Étienne Street benefit from their presence.
"For us it's really good. Even back in January, there were already RCMP officers coming here. They are customers we don't usually get," said Karine Dufour, owner of Pains D'Exclamation bakery.
For us it's really good. Even back in January, there were already RCMP officers coming here. They are customers we don't usually getKarine Dufour, Pains D'Exclamation bakery.
Dufour has already hired new employees, even though the tourist season usually starts at the end of the month.
The mayor of La Malbaie, Michel Couturier, agrees.
"It's an extraordinary event that we're all experiencing together over the last year. I think people are very polite and courteous with the citizens. So far, we've taken it as an extraordinary event. I think people are benefiting from it and having a good time," he said.
Security will continue to increase through the summit, Friday and Saturday. In the meantime, some of the locals are spending time by the river in Quai Casgrain park, to watch helicopters flying in and out.
About a two-hour drive south, in Quebec City, Sébastien Dumais, owner of Blender Bar on rue Saint-Jean, is celebrating the first anniversary of his business this Sunday. He hopes the anniversary will bring clients through his door, not rocks through his windows.
A few hours from the beginning of the summit, where the seven world leaders will meet, local businesses in Quebec City are ready for anything.
Alexanne Grenier, owner of the restaurant Bols et Poké, has installed wooden planks on each side of her windows. If some protesters decide to start breaking things, she'll be able to board up her business in no time.
Dumais has purchased plywood panels just in case masked protesters break his windows. He's told his employees they might need to leave the restaurant on short notice if there is any conflict.
But he doesn't plan to overdo it either. "I think that barricading yourself in and all that, it might create a climate of fear", said the businessman. "My goal is not to scare my customers, either."
Police officers in Quebec City met with business owners in the Saint-Jean-Baptiste neighbourhood in anticipation of the protests expected in the area. They also gave them pamphlets with instructions, including how to avoid leaving possible projectiles outside.
"My associates and I pretty much all live in the area, so we'll be on alert if need be," said Grenier, who did not want to make the situation "more dramatic than it is."
About 8,000 police officers - from the Service de police de la Ville de Québec (SPVQ), the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) and the RCMP - are in town.
Their presence is felt here. Stopping people at each corner, officers explain to visitors and residents that they are not allowed access to Jean-Jacques-Bertrand and Saint-Joachim, the streets bordering the Quebec City convention centre.
Police cars are roaming the streets, passing nearby by every 15 minutes while helicopters circle above.
The convention centre is surrounded by massive concrete blocks and a metal fence and is home to the International Media Centre. About 2,000 journalists will follow the comings and goings of the seven world leaders from a distance. Only a few of them will be able to enter the summit site itself.
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