All posts by Ben Isitt

Victoria, BC Cancels 2001 NATO Meeting

Police warn city is too close to Eugene, Orgeon

Victoria won\’t be transformed into a war zone after all.

From Oct. 11 to 15 next year, 600 delegates from the defense ministries of 35 member-countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization were to converge on quaint Victoria, presumably at the city\’s Conference Centre behind the Empress Hotel.

Not any more.

Mayor Allan Lowe requested over $3 million from the federal government to cover anticipated policing costs. Where the feds balked on the request, the Mayor as the M.P. to pull the plug. \”The security of our community and its financial well-being is the priority,\” Lowe said.

The new site of the conference remains a mystery.

The decision to request federal funds was made \”in light of the recent experiences of other North American cities who have hosted \’globalization\’ conferences, and who have incurred significant costs as a result,\” Lowe said.

Const. Paul Battershill, head of the Victoria Police Department, submitted a report highlighting four international conferences that were targeted by \”globalization protest actions:\” the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle in November 1999; the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington, DC, in April 2000; a meeting of the Organization of American States held in Windsor, Ont. in June 2000; and that of the World Petroleum Congress, held in Calgary last June.

Victoria\’s proximity \”to cities with large potential protester populations, including Vancouver and Eugene, Oregon, the center of the anarchist \’black bloc\’ faction\” was another cause of concern raised by Battershill.

As a result of this perceived risk, the police chief warned that downtown Victoria would have to be converted into an armed camp. His report outlined a proposal for an onsite \”detention facility,\” the employment of a \”relatively large number of police officers\” (1500 were used in Calgary and Windsor), and the creation and enforcement of an \”exclusion zone\” around the conference site, which would possibly require a municipal by-law in order to be legal.

\”Victoria has a unique character and tourist-oriented downtown,\” Battershill warned. \”If the NATO Parliamentary Assembly occurs the City will look very different for a 10 day period in October 2001. This will include an exclusion zone in prime tourist areas, barriers, fencing and large number of police officers.\”

An officer in charge would be assigned in November 2000 to oversea the operation. In April 2001, an \”intelligence group\” involving CSIS and NSIS (two national intelligence bodies) would be such tasks as \”targeting\” and \”group I.D.\”

The cost for the entire operation?

\”It is certainly possible that the $3.4 million is within the magnitude we may have to consider,\” Battershill suggested in his report, citing the policing figure for the Windsor conference.

It appears as though it was too much for pristine Victoria to handle. On Oct. 5, the plug was pulled and the excitement, anticipation, and fear were suddenly gone.

Plans for the Victoria mobilization were well under way. Activists in the region, planned to spend most of the next year organizing against NATO. \”The momentum was building for, I think, an enormous protest,\” Caulder said. \”We were getting support from all over the world.\”

(as published in the Martlet, the University of Victoria\’s student newspaper; see www.martlet.org)