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Military, Mounties Trained for the Games

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Issue: 64 Section: Canadian News Geography: West Vancouver Topics: 2010 Olympics, security, militarization

February 18, 2010

Military, Mounties Trained for the Games

Demonstrations a greater security threat than terrorism: CSIS

by Andrew Crosby

Photo: Combat Camera, Dru Oja Jay, AIVEN

VANCOUVER—The role the Canadian Forces play in domestic security is not new in Canada but the security plans for the 2010 Olympics demonstrated an intensification of using military strategies to control public dissent.

The Integrated Threat Assessment Centre is a CSIS unit and part of the RCMP’s Joint Intelligence Group (JIG). The Centre initially identified foreign-based terrorism, crime, and domestic protests (in that order of severity) as the most plausible threats during 2010, but later reconfigured their analysis. The ITAC most recently listed international terrorism as a low-level threat and anti-Olympic demonstrations—including anti-globalization and First Nations activists—as the primary threat with a medium level rating.

The conflation of protests and terrorism has steadily increased since the 1999 “Battle of Seattle” and the 9/11 attacks which even further entrenched the notion that militarized strategies were essential in quelling dissent. The deployment of military forces alongside police is part of a “continual flow of technologies that are first developed for the military and later flow into police departments,” Luis Fernandez, author of Policing Dissent: Social Control and the Anti-Globalization Movement, told The Dominion.

“In the past few years we are seeing an increase, not of the police being militarized, but of police working with the military. It goes beyond militarization,” said Fernandez.

Domestic military support dates back to the "aid-to-the-civil" power mandate in the Militia Act of 1855. Indeed, the use of military force has been used steadily since the early 17th Century by the French, British, and Canadians to impose colonial rule under the auspice of maintaining law and order.

More recently, Canada deployed 16,000 troops during the 1976 Montreal Olympics and 4,500 soldiers during the Oka crisis in 1990.

"This role (of the military) has certainly expanded and evolved in the post-9/11 environment, and perhaps for the first time, we are seeing a much more concentrated effort on the part of the military to fulfill that obligation," Scott Taylor, editor of Esprit de Corps magazine, told The Dominion via email.

During the G8 Summit in Kananaskis in 2002, the RCMP coordinated the largest security operation in Canada. Approximately 1,500 officers and 5,000 soldiers were deployed and ordered to “shoot to kill” any demonstrators who breached the security perimeter.

Canada Command was established in 2006 to focus on domestic operations, as well as the remodeling of the Reserves into specialized geographical units responsible for, among other things, assisting law enforcement agencies and providing support for large public events.

At the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) meeting in Montebello, Quebec, in 2007, camouflaged Canadian Forces were in position to reinforce riot police, and military helicopters were used to patrol the Ottawa River. Meanwhile, police were using agents provocateurs to incite violence amongst demonstrators.

During the 2010 Olympics, the Canadian Forces will have had 4,500 military personnel in land, air, and sea capacities, including the use of “Special Operations Forces” (JTF 2). They have been allocated $212 million of the total security budget.

The military have set up bases and facilities throughout the region and have conducted numerous training exercises including Operations Bronze, Silver, and Gold, as well as anti-terrorism training exercises and a mock biological warfare scenario in suburban Vancouver.

Although the public has been assured that the military presence would be discrete, bomb-removal squads in Victoria, helicopter and CF-18 fly-overs above Vancouver, and other public displays of training exercises have not gone unnoticed. Some residents have grown wary from being subjected to the growing military presence.

Pre-Olympics military training was supplemented by the construction of up to 10 temporary military bases between North Vancouver and Pemberton in the lead up to the Games. Increased military presence could be felt in the region from Victoria to Kamloops, part of what has been dubbed "Fortress British Columbia."

In the months the Olympics began security forces received new gadgets, including: weapons, bullet-proof body armour, radar systems, surveillance equipment, and Vancouver Police-requested "tactical armoured vehicles."

The Olympics also acted as a catalyst for integration with the US, increasing the transfer and training of military and security knowledge and equipment. Phil Boyle, who studies the long-term effects of Olympic-style security systems on host cities and states, said the 2010 Olympics are “setting a precedent for harmonizing protocols between Canada and the US over military use.”

“The time and context are being provided by the Olympics,” said Boyle of an agreement signed early in 2008 which allowed cross-border military expeditions in times of distress.

At the upcoming G8 summit in Huntsville, Ontario, in June, the Canadian military operation is expected to be even larger than in Vancouver.

Andrew Crosby is a writer and musician based in Vancouver.

For up-to-the-minute Olympics resistance coverage, check out the Vancouver Media Co-op, and the Convergence website. Follow the VMC on twitter!

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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