How to Spend A Billion in 3 Days
The June-end Summitry in Toronto promises to go down in
history as a memorable piece in the legendary 'how to …' series. Not
only because of the horrendous amount of money spent on security. But
also what it means when compared to billions spent -- or not spent –
for things more sustainable.
The Good and the Ugly
Toronto the Good, Toronto the Summit City, became Bad and
Ugly last weekend as more than 900 people were arrested in the violence
after thousands of anti-G20 protesters, undaunted
by heavy rain, marched through downtown, prompting police to use
tear gas in the city for the first time.
Downtown Toronto, Canada’s financial capital, was locked
down with three-metre high chain-link fence with over 14,000 security
personnel at a cost of over $1 billion. The core of the city was
unrecognizable and deserted except for the presence of police at every
corner. Security personnel lined up not only the access but also inside
the Metropolitan Toronto Convention Centre, where the G20 leaders were
meeting, and the hotels in the area where the leaders were staying. The
city earned the moniker "Fortress
Civil Liberties Association issued a report based on the first-hand
observations of over 50 human rights monitors that CCLA dispatched to
observe the police presence at G20-related demonstrations throughout the
It is the opinion of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association
that police conduct during the G20 Summit was, at times,
disproportionate, arbitrary and excessive. In our view, despite
instances of commendable and professional conduct, the policing and
security efforts, especially after 5PM on June 26 and June 27, failed to
demonstrate commitment to Canada’s constitutional values.
2 Miles in 30 Minutes
prior security clearance and are searched before entering the
International Media Centre, where the media are camped. It is
interesting that, prior to boarding the buses for the Convention Centre,
they have to go through airport-like security search. The distance of
less than 2 miles, which normally takes five minutes, took more than
half-an hour with police escort.
Toronto reporter, who covered Latin America and witnessed ‘ongoing
assault on human rights’, writes Toronto, which ‘was ever
innocent…doesn’t feel like that way anymore’.
Activist groups from around the country and the world
normally descend at all G8 / G20 Summit sites. They have their own
alternative plans for improving the life and health of people. Poverty,
climate change and economic justice top the list of concerns among the
civil society groups. There are others who have women's rights, labour
rights, gender rights, indigenous rights and the rights of the
transgendered on their agenda.
violence was caused mainly by the Black Bloc, a popular sight at almost every international
protest since the late 1990s. As police were little away around the
security zone, they smashed bank windows with hammers, storefronts with
rocks they threw and set police cars on fire. When police arrived on the
scene, the non-violent demonstrators got the worst from the police.
“I am profoundly
disappointed in the criminal acts which have taken place,” Toronto
police Chief Bill Blair said at a news conference.
"We have seen
windows broken and police cars burned. It is very regrettable that such
vandalism and violence could not be prevented. I want to assure you that
the persons responsible will be held accountable.”
NGOs denounced summit
violence as counter-productive to social justice. Messages of peace and
justice are not served by images of violence and destruction," says
The Council of Canadians on its website.
G8 Summit was held at
vibrant waterfront community of 18,000 residents, located two hours
north of Toronto in the heart of Muskoka region, the beautiful
“cottage country”. The 800-acre Deerhurst Resort was deemed ‘an excellent site’ for the event meeting acceptable security
and other conditions, as per a study by Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
A protest zone had
been set aside in the farms but there were no protesters there. One of
the newspapers published photo of a 22-month-old child standing in the zone next to a placard sign saying, "More
Cookies For Kids". The police is reported to have given him some.
There are questions
about the location of the G20 Summit, what was achieved
and why was it held at all.
The location of Toronto for G20 was decided,
Toronto Mayor, David Miller, by the federal government six months
ago with little consultation with the city, which had suggested that if
it was to be held in Toronto, it should be held at CNE, which can be
easily secured causing minimum disruption and high security cost.
the security cost of $1billion became public knowledge, many wondered,
knowing the history of violence that has followed these Summits, why it
could not have been held away from Canada’s largest city: in a secured
military base, on a luxury cruise liner in Lake Ontario across from the
city, or even at Huntsville, where G8 leaders met the day before.
is reported that ‘eighteen national leaders were actually present at
Huntsville for the G8 summit, along with 10 leaders of international
organizations, which shows the G20 could have been accommodated there.
If necessary, the size of the delegations could have been limited, with
extra staffers being flown in-and-out each morning and evening if
The government decided not to ‘capitulate
to the violent, lawless behaviour of a few hundred professional
disrupters’ and move the G20 to Huntsville.
It is ‘wrong in a free country to disrupt the lives of thousands of citizens, even just for a few days, for so little tangible return’ writes Lorne Gunter in Edmonton Journal.
The only noticeable achievement of the G 20
Summit was that Harper succeeded in having the leaders agree to "firm
targets for advanced economies on debt reduction and reducing debt-GDP
ratios. The targets are a 50 per cent deficit reduction by 2013
and a debt-to-GDP ratio that should be at least stabilized or on a
downward trend by 2016", as he declared in the closing remarks at
this is more than I expected,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel
"To put things bluntly" The Financial
Times Deutschland writes, "The summit has produced a political
agreement that, like an election promise, contains more empty words than
G20 Summit scheduled for South Korea in November, Lorne Gunter wonders
why “Canada is spending $1 billion or more
for a gathering that will be repeated elsewhere six months from now,”
Layton, Federal NDP leader, talking to a group of journalists including
this one, on June 26 morning, said that Canada is ‘spending
more on 3 days of security than it pledged to help save lives of women
and children in Africa over five years’ as per its commitment at G8.
Canada spent over $ 1 billion for the three-day G8/G20
summits and committed $1.1 billion in new funds over five years out of a
total of $5 billion G8 pledges at the Muskoka Initiative on Maternal,
Newborn and Child Health to tackle maternal and child health in poor
less than five months, this was Canada’s second largest ever security operation after the
Vancouver Olympics costing the same amount over 17 days in February.
that time, opinion surveys indicated growing public dissatisfaction with
the costs, the security and other disruptions associated with the Games:
only 50 percent of British Columbia residents thinking that the Olympics
would have a positive impact on the province, while 69 percent said that
too much money was being spent on the Games.
has added another feather in his cap by hosting three big events in
Canada this year and enhanced his image as a world leader. It is likely
that, over a period, Canadians forget the disruption and high expense
for these mega-shows and give Conservatives a majority government.