MONTREAL — About 100 demonstrators, some waving Fleur-de-lis flags, gathered in downtown Montreal on Tuesday to voice their opposition to Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, setting foot in Quebec.
“I’m here to support democracy,” Normand Cossette said in an interview. “I think a monarch is an obsolete institution and it’s not democratic.
“I’m here to speak in favour of democracy, republics and power to the people, not power to the monarchy.”
The protesters were milled near the headquarters of the Black Watch, where Charles was to arrive later to present new colours to the regiment and meet with recent Afghan veterans.
Some waved signs bearing the following slogans: Down With the Monarchy, Ottawa Leave Quebec, and Cultural Genocide, R.I.P.
Another demonstrator, who identified himself as Max Hydrogen, said it is “ridiculous” that the monarchy still exists in Canada.
“It’s time that we get rid of it and replace it with a republic and have an elected Senate and an elected president.”
Earlier in the day, the royal couple faced a friendlier audience when they met with Premier Jean Charest and his wife, Michele Dionne.
In his fluent French, Charles thanked the premier for the gift of an Inuit sculpture and a collection of Quebec films on DVD. Charest pointed to one film in particular — “La Grande seduction” — as his favourite. The film is about a small remote Quebec community trying to get a doctor.
A heavy police presence geared up to ensure the royal couple’s safety. Several dozen cops on motorcycles rolled in to stand guard outside Charest’s office.
But the crowd outside consisted almost exclusively of well-wishers and star-gazers. Several dozen people, many of them toting cameras, excitedly waited outside in anticipation of snapping a photo of the arriving couple.
They cheered heartily when the prince arrived.
“I’m here to see the show — that’s all,” said Claudine Lefort, who works up the street at McGill University. She was walking by on her lunch break and decided to wait for the visitors.
There was one lone protester at the first event: one man, holding up a Quebec flag, with a T-shirt that said: Quebec Un Pays (Quebec A Country). He got into a heated exchange with a journalist from Toronto when the reporter tried asking questions in English — and he refused to answer.
The couple’s next activity was a trip to the Cirque du soleil headquarters where they attended a brief performance by acrobats, chatted with performers and took a whirlwind tour of workshops where costumes and props are made.
The royal couple chatted quietly with artisans, often smiling and asking questions about their work.
Charles and Camilla seemed particularly impressed with a selection of masks on display as they entered one workshop.
After the performance, they stopped by a studio for a few minutes where they watched a couple of performers having their makeup applied.
The duchess quizzed the makeup artists, asking how long it took to apply the intricate designs.
The couple were greeted with smiles, large groups of workers and often cheers as they toured.
The royal tour is scheduled to be in Petawawa, Ont., and Ottawa on Wednesday for Remembrance Day ceremonies.