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VANCOUVER—The buzzword at the upcoming G8 and G20 summits in Toronto and Huntsville—both inside the boardrooms and on the streets below—is “security.”
According to Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, the summits will provide “an important opportunity to address issues of vital interest to global and national security.” Such issues include the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the broader War on Terror and the perceived threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, all in the interests of charting a secure course for global capitalism in the 21st century.
While the way forward for counterinsurgency operations in Central Asia and the Middle East is discussed on the inside, on the outside security forces will employ tactics that have become standard fare at international summits. G8/G20 security forces will keep protesters behind an “unscalable” security perimeter, likened to an “urban combat zone” by a Toronto Star journalist.
Security operations are being touted by officials as “bigger than anything Canada has seen before.” Speaking at a meeting of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Toronto, Constable Ed Boltuc, spokesperson for the G8/G20 Integrated Security Unit (ISU), said the scale of security will surpass the Vancouver Olympics, previously the largest domestic security operation in Canadian history.
“There’s going to be a massive—absolutely massive—presence of police and security on the ground like you’ve never seen before,” said Boltuc.
The Globe and Mail reported in April that more than “10,000 uniformed officers and 1,000 private security guards” will comprise a “small army [that] will descend” on Huntsville and Toronto from June 25 to 27.
The security perimeter will reportedly include two three-metre fences and five levels of security screening. According to the Council of Canadians, protesters in Huntsville “will be facing a $6 million galvanized metal fence that will stretch 15 kilometres around the summit site,” while in Toronto, “it is expected that the convention centre will be surrounded by a four-metre-high steel and concrete fence, with military helicopters overhead and sharpshooters on rooftops.”
According to an RCMP inquiry posted on merx.com, pedestrians in the designated areas may be subject to magnetometers, walk-through metal detectors, X-ray scanners and hand-held metal detectors. The private security contractors, who will “perform pedestrian screening in designated areas,” must have either NATO Secret Security clearance or a security clearance approved by the Canadian Public Works and Government Services Canada.
For the three-day event, the federal government has already allocated at least $179 million for the operations of the RCMP, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Department of National Defence, Industry Canada, and CSIS. Also expected are “several specialized police units—SWAT teams, intelligence analysts, motorcade escorts,” while “soldiers and spies will also work behind the scenes.”
According to the Supplementary Budget Estimates tabled by the Conservative government earlier this year, “This funding will support planning and operations related to policing and security at the G8 summit and to cover the costs of initial planning and preparations for the G20 summit,” indicating that the costs may be much higher.
The full amount may never be known. Addressing the question of security costs on its website, the ISU states, “It would be inappropriate to speculate on what the costs will be prior to the event...security plans can and will be adjusted right up until the end of the event.”
The police and media have begun drawing distinctions between “good” and “bad” protesters in an apparent attempt to preemptively demonize more radical demonstrators.
In an article earlier this month highlighting NGOs that will be taking a more “diplomatic” approach to protesting the summits, The Globe and Mail contrasted them with another group, Resist Toronto G20 Summit 2010: “On the group’s Anarchist Forum, one member advised visitors to bring ear plugs as police will ‘be using the sound cannons,’” the article states. “A member from Quebec City solicits contacts with ‘militant organizations in Toronto.’”
The Globe and Mail reported that “police are already reaching out to protest planners and monitoring websites on which they are planning their events.”
“It’s not keeping tabs; it’s not unlike policing a city normally,” said G8/G20 spokesperson Michelle Paradis. “You know the people who are expressly bent on wreaking havoc.”
Typically, protesters who are construed as “wreaking havoc” are labelled “anarchists.” A draft of the Canadian Forces Counterinsurgency Operations Manual states, “The most potentially dangerous form of insurrection is that of the anarchist group which sets out to eliminate all political structures and the social fabric associated with them.”
Christine Jones of the Canadian Peace Alliance warned the police against utilizing agents provocateurs, as they have done at past demonstrations. During protests against the 2007 Security and Prosperity Partnership in Montebello, Quebec, police agents provocateurs were caught on video. More recently, Montreal police were videotaped attempting to infiltrate an annual march against police brutality.
Chief of Toronto Police William Blair said security forces are preparing for the worst. “If protesters want to come to Toronto and do that, I’ll facilitate that,” Blair told reporters. “If they want to cross that line, and start breaking windows and damaging property and putting people at risk, then there will be a different response from the police.”
In another evocatively headlined article, “The summit of all fears,” The Globe and Mail warned of “wild protests,” while the Toronto Star invoked the spectre of “throngs of screaming protesters confronting police officers in riot gear,” and quoted an unnamed resident who stated, “Everyone knows that these conferences create very, very large protests...All it takes is 10 or 20 very violent protesters to turn the area into a war zone.”
The Toronto Community Mobilization Network has voiced its concern about the scale of militarization. In a press release, they stated: “The Canadian government is going to militarize Toronto for the G20 summit by bringing in...troops and thousands of metres of fencing to disrupt the lives of people in the city.”
UPDATE: Since this article was written, more information on security costs for the G8 & G20 summits have revealed the total security price tag to be between $833 and $930 million, as opposed to the original $179 million predicted in March, a 465 per cent increase.
Anthony Fenton is an independent researcher and journalist based in Pitt Meadows, BC. Fenton can be reached via WebofDemocracy.org.
This story was published in The Dominion's special issue on the G8 and G20 summits in Ontario. We will continue to publish independent, investigative news about the G8 and G20 throughout the month of June.
For up-to-the-minute G8/G20 news from the streets of Toronto, visit the Toronto Media Co-op.
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.