Villeneuve gets death threats

2012-06-09 09:26

Montreal - Ex-Formula One champ Jacques Villeneuve said on Friday he had received death threats after lashing out against student protests in Quebec ahead of this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.

The 1997 Formula One world champion, who was born in Quebec near Montreal, said he had received "a bundle of abusive, insulting and even some threatening emails," that included "death threats," according to La Presse.

"For people who laud the right of free expression," the daily quoted him as saying of student protesters he believed to be behind the messages, "I find it ridiculous that I wouldn't have the right to say what I think."

He went on to say that if the protesters make good on promises to block access to subway lines to the main Grand Prix event on Sunday, "it would be a blatant act of terrorism."

"It's sad is all. They've (the protests) lasted three months and I think everyone has had enough of them."

Since February, hundreds of protesters have been arrested and clashes have erupted sporadically as more than 165 000 students have refused to attend class and tens of thousands have taken part in nightly demonstrations.

Student leaders vowed to target the Grand Prix, the city's biggest annual tourist event, when talks in Quebec broke down last week after students rejected a government offer to reduce a planned tuition hike.

Villeneuve on Thursday at a cocktail benefit that kicked off the four-day Grand Prix celebrations told reporters the students had had their say: "We heard, and now it's time to go back to school," he said.

"I think these people grew up without ever hearing their parents ever tell them 'No.' So that's what you see in the streets now. People spending their time complaining. It's becoming a little bit ridiculous," he said.

The cocktail party was disrupted by more than 100 students and anti-capitalists demonstrating outside the event, before they marched past other race festivities downtown. In all 39 protesters were arrested.

Security was doubled on Friday as tens of thousands of Formula One racing fans went to the Gilles Villeneuve track - named after Jacques's father - on Saint Helen's Island to watch the drivers' practice runs.