“We want the message to get across that the monarchy is not welcome in Quebec _ there are people who aren’t happy,” said Patrick Bourgeois, leader of the Quebecker Resistance Network. “We want it to be unpleasant for him.”
A 2009 visit by Prince William’s father, Prince Charles, to Montreal was disrupted by more than 200 separatist protesters. The protesters sat in the street, blocking the prince’s way into a ceremony planned at an armory, and threw eggs at the soldiers who were accompanying him and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall. The couple were forced to enter the building through a back door and missed an elaborate welcoming ceremony that had been planned.
Prince William’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, found herself in the eye of a Quebec nationalist storm during a trip in 1964. As she toured Montreal, helmeted police officers clashed with several hundred boisterous marchers, who flashed obscene, two-finger “V” signs at the young monarch.
However, support for the separatists among Quebeckers has been on the decline in recent years as the 80-percent French-speaking province has enjoyed plenty of autonomy even without quitting Canada.
In the May 2 parliamentary elections, the separatist Bloc Quebecois slumped from 47 seats to 4 in the 308-seat federal Parliament, rendering it all but impotent at the national level at a time when Quebec separatists are also out of office in their own province.
Prince William and Kate arrived Thursday to cheering crowds of thousands in Ottawa, Canada’s largely English-speaking capital. Poised and confident, they have thrilled crowds with warm, unscripted gestures, wading into throngs of well-wishers to shake hands and accept flowers and other gifts.
But the trip to Quebec isn’t expected to be as welcoming. Some Quebec residents this year said they are unexcited about the visit and angry that taxpayer money is being used to pay for the royal tour. Johane Beaupre, a 46-year-old Montreal teacher, said she will not attend a protest but supports the protesters’ cause.
“It’s an unnecessary expense that yields nothing,” Beaupre said of the visit. “(The monarchy) is a thing of the past.”
Michael Behiels, an Ottawa University professor, said there was much hostility between the French and the English in the years following Great Britain’s 1759 Conquest of New France _ which is present day Quebec.
Behiels said public support in Quebec for the British royal family also dropped in the 20th century, after the province’s youth were conscripted to serve in the First and Second World Wars and when Quebec’s separatism movement gained momentum in the 1960s.
The royal couple leave Canada for a three-day trip to California on July 8.
Associated Press writer Selena Ross contributed to this story from Montreal.