If you head to Kananaskis today, know this: you're being watched.
Chances are you won't notice the snow-white 4x4 vehicle tucked into the woods along Highway 40.
Driving along, you won't realize your presence has been noted and logged by one of Calgary's premier security firms.
Its mission is to stop would-be saboteurs from destroying $1 million worth of high-tech fibre optic cable that will link Kananaskis Village to the world during the upcoming G-8 summit. "What if somebody decided they don't want that line to go in and they . . . start sabotaging equipment?" says Roger Nobert, co-owner of Centurion Security International. "We're monitoring the line to make sure no one's tampering with it."
This round-the-clock surveillance foreshadows the security crackdown to come in Kananaskis.
This June, K-Country will be transformed into Fortress Kananaskis, locked down by hundreds of RCMP and Canadian Forces soldiers.
On June 26 and 27, G-8 leaders from industrialized nations will gather to co-ordinate policy on key world issues.
Security concerns were already high, given the street violence at previous meetings of world leaders in Seattle, Quebec City and Genoa, Italy. The Sept. 11 attacks on the United States introduced the frightening possibility the G-8 summit could become a target for terrorists.
G-8 officials refuse to comment on details of their security plans. They're confident, however, that Kananaskis can be secured. "We won't discuss tactics or strategy . . . because it places our people and the people we are mandated to protect at risk," says RCMP Cpl. Jamie Johnston. "Are there special issues to deal with a forested versus an urban area? Of course there are. But we are planning for every contingency."
Others, however, aren't so sure. They caution that securing a vast, wild area could prove a challenge. "No matter how well prepared you are, there is a possibility somebody sees a hole you don't," says Rob Huebert, associate director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.
KANANASKIS VILLAGE was chosen for the G-8 summit for its natural beauty and its remoteness.
Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, about 100 kilometres west of Calgary, this village isn't actually a village at all, but rather a collection of resort hotels.
Summit officials say Kananaskis' isolated location will help fulfil Prime Minister Jean Chretien's desire to host an intimate, retreat-style gathering of G-8 leaders.
"We want to have the meeting in a tucked-away place . . . where we can really spend time talking," Bruce Leeson, the G-8 summit's environmental director, said recently.
G-8 security officials intend to shut down Kananaskis Country during the summit. All who try to sneak through the no-go perimeter around the village will be arrested.
There are also plans to have F-18 fighter jets stationed at Calgary International Airport, ready to scramble at a moment's notice against any terrorist threat.
There are some clear security advantages to holding a summit in Kananaskis -- and some disadvantages.
There is only one paved road into Kananaskis Country, which simplified security planning. And since K-Country doesn't have the many shops and buildings of an urban centre, the risk of property damage is greatly reduced.
However, the backcountry is criss-crossed by countless trails -- possible access routes for those fit and determined enough to hike the rugged terrain.
The forests in June are also usually tinder dry -- a tempting target for arsonists wishing to smoke the world leaders out of Kananaskis Village.
Web sites devoted to protest and anarchism have advocated using guerrilla-style tactics to disrupt the summit.
Huebert says holding the G-8 summit in a wild, forested region, rather than in an urban centre, may actually encourage some people to test the security in Kananaskis.
"That's part of the weakness -- people say: 'Ah, that's forest. I can get in closer.' You create a bit of perception people can in fact get in closer," Huebert says.
However, the G-8 security has many high-tech -- and low-tech -- ways of detecting trespassers.
Nobert, co-owner of Centurion, is an 18-year veteran of the business. His company has provided protection for many major events, including the 2000 World Petroleum Congress in Calgary.
Centurion has been hired by Telus to protect the G-8 fibre-optic cable, and is also trying to win a contract to supplement RCMP security at Kananaskis Village during the summit.
He's heard the criticisms: that K-Country is too vast, too rugged and too forested to be defended during the summit.
But in Nobert's opinion, protecting K-Country will be a breeze.
"A (protester) has more of a chance of being eaten by a bear . . . than making it through" the G-8 security gauntlet, Nobert predicts.
"(Protesters) can go out into the mountains all day long. They're not going to affect the summit. If you're not supposed to be there, you'll stand out."
Nobert predicts Kananaskis Village will be protected by ever-expanding "security rings."
"The closer you get to the centre of the bullseye, the tighter the ring is," he says.
And while there are many places for people to hide in Kananaskis' forests, there are many high-tech tools available to find them.
For instance, he says, RCMP helicopters mounted with infrared cameras could easily sweep the Kananaskis Village area in minutes.
"Anybody that's got blood and a pulse and a heartbeat is going to show up," Nobert says.
He says security teams can also sweep the no-go zone on foot, by horseback and on four-wheel all-terrain vehicles.
On-the-ground surveillance can be combined to great effect with infiltration tactics.
Nobert says Centurion used infiltration tactics during the World Petroleum Congress to spy on local protest groups.
He says covert teams of RCMP officers, disguised as protesters, could easily mingle with activists in K-Country, all the while secretly reporting their movements to security command.
"What's stopping me from putting on a backpack and looking like a person who's going out to protest and . . . reporting people?" Nobert says.
Huebert, the military strategist, adds that today's state-of-the-art spy satellites can negate the ability of intruders to blend into the scenery.
"There will be satellite surveillance," he predicts. "So you can easily start picking out individuals on the ground."
SECURITY COSTS for G-8 summits have risen astronomically in recent years, thanks to violent confrontations between police and protesters.
For example, security costs for the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City last spring exceeded $100 million.
The City of Calgary, the closest major urban area to Kananaskis, has budgeted $40 million for policing during the summit.
The RCMP refuses to estimate its costs, but the bill will likely be that much or more.
Melissa Scaman, a Calgary activist, has heard the doomsday scenarios of police and protesters clashing in the woods of K-Country.
She doesn't buy it.
Sure, Scaman says, it's possible some protesters and police will butt heads. But she says the vast majority of activists aren't seeking confrontation.
Rather, they intend to focus their energy on Tent City, a peaceful gathering of protesters planned near Kananaskis Country during the summit, and a
G-6B conference (for the six billion people on Earth) at the University of Calgary.
Scaman says these events will be forums for thoughtful debate on a variety of hot-button social and economic justice issues.
"(The police) don't have a lot to worry about," Scaman says. "We think it will be a lot more productive to basically do our own thing."
Indeed, there seems to be a reluctance among some activists to travel to Kananaskis at all.
Dan Sawyer, an Ottawa-based protester, says many of his colleagues would rather hold rallies in their home communities to coincide with the G-8 summit.
"There's a large sentiment in this part of North America that it doesn't make sense to go to Kananaskis," Sawyer says.
"We don't have the resources to ship 5,000, 6,000 people out there. Added on to that, the security level is going to be monstrous.
"I'm not convinced that the best way to get my message across is to get taken down by a couple of army officers in the middle of the bush, away from the public I'm trying to communicate with."
ROBERT FOWLER, the prime minister's representative for the G-8, made it clear in a recent visit to Calgary just how serious the security issue is to G-8 officials.
He said the terrorist attacks on the United States last September were a wake-up call.
"We don't, in any way, want to . . . curtail peaceful expressions of dissent," Fowler said. "(However), we have . . . to make sure legitimate demonstration isn't used by people who would (use the G-8) to do extreme violence."
One thing is certain: G-8 security members will face intense public scrutiny.
Accusations of police brutality and over-reaction at previous summits have lingered long after the last wisps of tear gas have dissipated.
In response, the Kananaskis security team has created a code of conduct for its officers, pledging to respect the public's right to peaceful protest.
Johnston, the RCMP G-8 spokesman, hopes this summit will spark a new era of understanding between police and protesters.
He says the stereotype of police as faceless goons, hired to protect an elite cabal of world leaders, isn't true.
"It's very, very tough," Johnston says of the role police are asked to play in these summits. "The people facing the police on the line, they're our neighbours. It's a very, very difficult position we find ourselves in."
As for Centurion, its staff will continue patrolling Kananaskis.
So far, however, Nobert says his security guards are spending much of their time being de facto tour guides for skiers.
"We've given out directions how to get places more than we've done anything else."
Policing and Protesting at Recent Summits
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