Sunday, June 27, 2010

G20: Canada's brewing 'insurgency'

By Jon Elmer 

Canada's native communities are using the G20 and G8 gatherings to bring attention to land rights issues, poverty and poor living conditions [GETTY]

As leaders of the richest nations gather in Toronto for the annual G8 and G20 summits, Canada has mounted an unprecedented security operation that stands to go down as the largest in the country's history.

The local and federal governments have resorted to significant measures: barricading the downtown core behind a massive galvanised perimeter fence, erecting checkpoints with x-rays, uprooting trees that police say could be used by demonstrators, and converting a sound stage into a massive temporary detention facility in preparation for mass arrests of protesters.

But with Canadian soldiers, snipers, commandos and police tactical units representing the sharp end of a security budget that is poised to top $1bn, the most significant threat to business as usual for the summit may turn out to be far-flung rural blockades enacted by Canada's long suffering native communities.

"It's a very dangerous situation," said Douglas Bland, a retired Canadian forces lieutenant-colonel who is now the chair of defence management studies at Queen's University.

In recent years in particular, Canada's indigenous communities have shown the will and potential to grind the country's economic lifelines to a halt through strategically placed blockades on the major highways and rail lines that run through native reserves well outside of Canada's urban landscape.

"The Canadian economy is very vulnerable," said Bland.

"More than 25 per cent of our GDP comes from exports of raw materials, but especially oil, natural gas and electricity to the United States."

"It's undefended and undefendable infrastructure, the pipelines and power lines and so on, and it runs through great spaces of open countryside and they run through aboriginal territories.

"It would take a very small number of people very little time to bring [it] down," said Bland, who is the author of a "barely fictionalised" account of native insurgency in Canada, entitled Uprising.


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