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|Written by Kendall R. Giberson|
|Friday, 18 June 2010 00:00|
For some, Canada's hosting of the upcoming G8 and G20 summits is a source of prestige, as the organizers have the opportunity to make a lasting impression upon the decision-makers for the largest and most influential economies in the world. For others, it is an opportunity to voice their opinions about the subjects of globalization, human rights, fair trade, and other political concerns. Of the latter group, there is expected to be a significant portion of protestors who will attempt to provoke incidents and some who have threatened violent action.|
Taking the lead in organizing the events has been Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, who have produced a monster security budget of approximately $1 billion. The security detail will be headed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Ontario Provincial Police, and thousands of officers from all over North America will be assigned to Huntsville for the G8 meetings and Toronto for the G20 summit.
The spending on security, which dwarfs the $15 million spent in the G20 meetings in Pittsburgh last year, has been amped up due to recent concerns stemming from incidents that took place in May:
Although arrests were made in both cases, the incidents sparked increased action by the security-conscious organizers of the summits, who had already moved the G20 from Huntsville to Toronto earlier in the year (even forcing the Toronto Blue Jays to reschedule some home games on short notice) because of growing logistical concerns.
As the summits tend to attract protestors from all over the world, recent summits have shown that North America is not immune to violent incidents (Seattle in 1999 and Quebec City in 2001). The advent of social networking sites has made protest groups of all types able to organize and mobilize themselves better. It recently came out that CSIS agents warned an aboriginal group, Red Power United, against blockading Highway 400, as some security forces transporting and guarding foreign VIPs may not react very peacefully when confronted by such an act. The group, along with other aboriginal groups, made public plans to blockade several highways in Canada during the summits to bring awareness to aboriginal rights.Despite all of the spending and preparing for all kinds of incidents, there will inevitably be some incidents at these meetings, though likely occurring far away from where the actual meetings are taking place. The Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville will host the G8, and it is easy to control access to the resort, whether from roads, the forest, or the lake. There is also a no-fly zone that has been established by NORAD over the area during the summits. The town itself is small enough, at 20,000, for any non-local people to stand out, and there is only really one way in and one way out of the town if proper security perimeters are created. Nonetheless, easy to monitor also means easy to target in this case. The main highway is an easy target for such aforementioned native groups, but could one imagine a Russian or Chinese security convoy (with diplomatic immunity) being passive if confronted with a blockade?
Where the real concerns will arise will be in Toronto, where, despite the creation of a huge downtown security zone around the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, including the construction of a three-metre-high fence, it would be easier for hordes of people to descend upon the event. Thousands of delegates plus tens of thousands of protestors plus tens of thousands of summer tourists -- on top of the five million people living in the GTA -- will most definitely put a strain on the police presence, regardless of the presence of an additional 10,000 officers who have been requested to supplement the available local forces. The current plan is to keep all protest activities contained to a designated area on the outskirts of the security zone. This plan could pose a very difficult challenge in the concrete jungle that is downtown Toronto.
The Canadian government may have just put itself in a no-win situation here. On the one hand, if there are major violent incidents, Canada would get negative publicity on the international stage and at home, as some would say that the massive spending was not worth it as incidents were not prevented. On the other hand, if things go well and there are no incidents, the security spending will be seen as an example of overspending and a waste of resources by some.
When the final figures are tallied, it will be interesting to see how the political fallout will affect the next election, as one is coming sooner than later.