October 12, 2009
The 2010 Winter Olympic Games will be held in Vancouver, British Columbia, from February 12-28. It will be the largest security operation in Canadian history. Military planners will undoubtedly use it as a template for securing future high profile events. Canadian security officials continue to work closely with their American counterparts in preparation for the test that the Games will pose to the security of its shared border. Integration of Canada’s security and military structures with the U.S. have already been advanced through the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD), NORTHCOM, the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), the Bi-National Planning Group, the Civil Assistance Plan, as well as other initiatives. Training and security provisions for the Olympics might be used to further accelerate the merging of U.S-Canada command structures and the militarization of North America. The 2010 Olympics will be a hellhole of police state measures with far-reaching effects that could remain in place long after the Games are finished.
Security planners have followed a graduated process in preparation for the 2010 Olympic Games. This includes the Olympic Integrated Exercise Program which “is designed to ensure coordinated responses are sufficiently tested in preparation for incidents that might arise during the 2010 Winter Games. The program has three key components.” Exercise Bronze was held in November 2008. It brought together all agencies involved with security for the games and examined security structures. Exercise Silverwas held in February of 2009 and “focused on information-sharing across government and non-governmental agencies” as well as providing “safety and security participants with hands-on experience.” Exercise Gold is scheduled for November of this year and will confirm readiness for the Games. There has been questions whether Exercise Gold would involve American forces. The Canadian Defense Department has responded, “Yes. NORAD is a bi-national command that includes both Canadian and American personnel and equipment. NORAD will be participating in exercise Gold. Various US military headquarters and operations centres will be exercising with Canada Command during exercise Gold, through exercise Determined Dragon (a Canadian Forces exercise) and exercise Vigilant Shield (a US military exercise). In addition, a small number of US military liaison officers will be participating with Joint Task Force Games.”
In September of 2008, the 2010 Winter Olympics security preparations spending bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. This included funding for construction of the Olympic Coordination Center in Bellingham, Washington. Members of the 2010 Olympic Security Planning Committee have stated that, “The 2010 Olympics Security Coordination Center will coordinate the security efforts for over 40 federal, state and local agencies on the U.S. side of the U.S. – Canadian border. This facility will provide a strategic response platform to facilitate critical response efforts during the Olympic Games and beyond”. In September of this year, NORAD conducted Exercise Fabric Virgo, which involved CF-18 fighter jets flying at low altitudes and escorting civilian-looking aircraft. This exercise was designed to familiarize NORAD personnel with operations in the Vancouver area. There are numerous other drills and exercises which are planned before the Games begin or have already been conducted. Some have not been made public. Training for the Olympics and the actual security operation could be used as a pretext for the further militarization of North America. It could also advance the merging of U.S.-Canada military and security structures. As part of the SPP, there were calls for a North American security perimeter.
The entire security operation for 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games is being overseen by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). This will include over 5000 RCMP officers, along with an additional 1800 other police from municipal, regional and provincial units from across the country. Canadian Forces will provide maritime security, logistical support and surveillance. This could include the use of unmanned drones which are now being used along the U.S.-Canada border. Some 4500 Canadian soldiers will also be deployed for various security purposes. This is twice the number of troops that Canada has in Afghanistan. The U.S. is set to contribute Coast Guard and Navy vessels. NORAD will be a key player in Games security. They will patrol the skies and monitor the airspace over the Olympics. In addition to police and military, there will be up to 5000 private security personnel. Olympic venues will be designated as special security zones. This will include electronically monitored fencing and other measures similar to security screening at airports. Surveillance cameras will also monitor venues and public areas using face-recognition technology. Some residents of Whistler, B.C., which will host skiing and other events, have complained that it feels like they are already living in a security zone. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is working with the RCMP and other federal agencies in evaluating and monitoring security threats and have warned of the potential for violence by anti-Olympic activists.
[efoods]In advance of the 2010 Games, anti-Olympic groups have been subjected to surveillance and harassment by police and intelligence agencies. There is a concerted effort to curb any protests during the Olympics and restrict the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. City of Vancouver 2010 Winter Games By-laws will limit protesters to specific free speech zones. They will prevent anyone who is not licensed to do so, from carrying signs or handing out materials on or near Olympic venues and other designated city property. Violators could face huge fines or jail time. A lawsuit has been filed which challenges the Olympic sign law. It was filed by Chris Shaw, a professor at the University of British Columbia and student Alissa Westergard-Thorpe. Shaw is an outspoken critic of the Olympics and author of the book Five Ring Circus. Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, he plans to criticize the Games with signs and the distribution of leaflets at prohibited sites. Under another by-law possession of any voice, amplification equipment on city property is prohibited for the duration of the Games. Many of the by-laws are an attempt to quell dissent and give the illusion that everyone supports the Olympics. They can only be described as unconstitutional. It will be interesting to see if any LRAD sound cannon weapons, which were used against protesters at the recent G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, will be deployed at the Olympics. Some of the police state measures being enacted for the Vancouver Olympics are temporary, but others including infrastructure, will remain in place long after the Games are over.
There are rising costs associated with holding the Olympics which will leave taxpayers on the hook for millions. The security bill alone is expected to top $900-million, which is almost five times higher than original estimates. Like previous Olympics, Vancouver will be left with a huge deficit. This has left some local residents less then enthusiastic about hosting the Games. Anti-poverty and housing rights groups also point to the negative impact the Olympics have on the homeless. This includes the criminalization of the poor in areas near event facilities. The Olympics are being used to impose greater social control and rid the Vancouver city core of its poor. According to some estimates over the last 20 years, the Olympic Games have displaced over two million people around the world. In many ways, the Olympics have become a political tool, a corporate driven agenda that goes far beyond the athletes and sporting events. Much of the security surrounding the Olympics in Vancouver seems aimed more at protesters and other so called undesirables.
Security measures at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games will be an indication of what to expect at other upcoming events. In June of the same year, Canada will host the G8 as well as the G20 Summits. Both will attract their share of protests. Canada is also expected to host the 2010 North American Leaders Summit where security measures could dwarf what was witnessed at the 2007 Summit in Montebello, Quebec. Some will recall that anarchist protesters were identified as police provocateurs. There are fears that police could infiltrate anti-Olympic groups, in order to stage events which would justify a crackdown during the 2010 Winter Games. It is important to be aware of those who not only seek to demonize peaceful protesters, but also incite angry and violent responses by police. In some cases, police do not need an excuse as was evident at the recent G20 Summit in Pittsburgh and this could be a prelude of what to expect in the coming year. Welcome to police state Canada 2010!