MONTREAL – Former Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve criticized Quebec's student protesters after they tried to disrupt a cocktail party kicking off Canadian Grand Prix festivities.
The months-long protest movement against higher tuition has received enthusiastic endorsements from many Quebec celebrities. But the Quebec-born, Monaco-raised driver just might have become the most famous, most virulent new critic.
"It's time for people to wake up and stop loafing about. It's lasted long enough," Villeneuve told reporters Thursday. "We heard them. We listened. They should stop. It's costing the city a fortune. It makes no sense."
Police surrounded the protesters, many of them masked or wearing black, as the group approached a barrier near the party. About 20 people were arrested, and police said they confiscated light bulbs filled with paint.
In another protest Thursday, hundreds of demonstrators wore little more than their underwear or nothing at all. They paraded through downtown streets to protest what they consider the exploitation of the female body by promoters of the racing event. Police said 39 people were arrested.
The Formula One race usually attracts 300,000 people — many of them tourists. The protesters have promised to disrupt Grand Prix-related events — some out of opposition to tuition hikes, others out of opposition to capitalist practices.
Villeneuve said in a democracy, people can vote and speak their mind between elections to make themselves heard — but they have to know when to give it a rest.
"That's what democracy is. We vote for people — and if you're not happy, then you vote for other people the next time around. And if you're not happy you complain, they listen, and that's it," he said.