The Pope's admirers were able to easily stroll on the Plains of Abraham on Wednesday despite a general mobilization of the police force of Quebec and omnipresent security in every corner of the city center.
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The regulars of the Quebec Summer Festival would have been disconcerted. Despite the passage of Pope Francis, a head of state requiring a high level of security, no searches were made at the entrance to the Plains.
People could enter through the Cross of Sacrifice, but also through all the accesses with backpacks without ever being bothered by the police or private security agents before the Popemobile passed.
However, security tightened on Grande Allée and the Plains a few moments before the sovereign pontiff took his walkabout.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers in charge of surrounding the white car were on the lookout once the journey began, but the vehicle was able to come to a complete stop on several occasions.
However, the level of security observed on the Plains was much lower than what we should expect this morning for mass at the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré basilica.
The Sûreté du Québec (SQ), responsible for this part of the visit, has decided to close all of Sainte-Anne Boulevard, Route 138, from Boischatel to Beaupré, for 12 hours.
According to two former police officers, the different security strategies can be explained according to "risk analysis".
"If they consider that today [on the Plains] the risk is low, the security measures are going to be deployed less," explained Stéphane Wall, supervisor of the judicious use of force, now retired from the Montreal police. .
"There are few people and since he considers the threat to be low, they did not put checkpoints," added Guy Ryan, a retired inspector from the same police force.
Conversely, Mr. Ryan argues that Sainte-Anne Boulevard is “the only artery that leads to the basilica. There is no other access. »
The two police officers explain that the pope could be more vulnerable in the enclosure of the basilica, on the square and at the campsite which he intends to visit. On the Plains, the papemobile offers an additional element of security.
Retired police officers repeat that the close guard of Pope Francis is however very strict.
This was also the case when the Holy Father arrived at the Quebec airport, where nothing was left to chance despite a short stay of about ten minutes on the tarmac. Dozens of Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), including snipers, were stationed on a rooftop, and sniffer dogs scoured all of the equipment installed.
Officers from the SQ and the Service de police de la Ville de Québec (SPVQ) were in charge of escorting the pope to the city center.
Once the convoy was on its way, an SQ helicopter flew over the procession of around thirty vehicles surrounding the small white Fiat 500.
This is without counting the few dozen motorcycles from the SPVQ and the SQ present to block the side streets to the archdiocese, the pope's first stop.
AT LEAST $100 M IN SECURITY
Quebec Police Service
Sûreté du Québec
Dozens of motorcycles to escort the pope, but also cardinals and political dignitaries
A helicopter flies over the area where the Pope is
Closure of Route 138 (Sainte-Anne Boulevard) for 12 hours
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Takes care of security at the airport as well as inside the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré basilica