G-8 in K-Country: Recipe for disaster

Like a high school party that descends into chaos, any international summit staged in Kananaskis will only result in disaster. The facts of the matter are simple, but above all, the area cannot support the Group of Eight summit as it will surely happen in 2002.

Kananskis is an environmentally sensitive area. Described by environmental groups as fragile, invaluable and requiring protection, any amount of protesters or protesting–peaceful or violent and on any scale–represents damage to an area that should have been made a wholesale provincial park long ago.

The Alberta government’s current policy involves maintaining K-country’s status as a recreational area–open for a party but also open for business. Unfortunately, for anybody who has seen a crashed house party, the remains of the house afterwards are none too pleasing to the parents–especially mom. There will be one hell of a mess to clean up that will simultaneously devastate a decade of work that environmental organizations have put in to limit development in Kananskis. Furthermore, this cleanup isn’t just bottles and pizza–it could potentially be the leftovers of several tens of thousands of vacated protesters.

The prime minister’s perception of the area is fundamentally flawed. It will not, contrary to Chrétien’s beliefs, bring the G-8 back to it’s founding principles as an informal meeting of the leaders of developed countries. It will be mass-protested just like any other recent summit, and Kananskis Village cannot be protected by a three metre fence and fire hoses. Maybe Chrétien should just try asking the protesters to take a break this year and not come.

Consider the logistics of protest in and around the village. With a total of 421 hotel rooms available at the base of Nakiska, protesters will have to camp in the bush. Highway 40 leads into the area; access on the highway during summer is from the north or south. A single lane highway snakes through the Kananskis valley. The entire highway will likely be sealed off to the busses of protesters, forcing them to either march up the highway and clog delegate traffic, or force delegates to be flown in via the Kananskis Emergency Services centre opposite the village. Will the Stoney lands surrounding the north entrance to the valley be controlled by police?

If police seal off the highway, then protesters could use multiple hiking trails that will get them closer to the site. Should these be sealed off as well, protesters can attempt to navigate the bush. A comparable security force would need to mobilize the entire area and need to equal the protesters or be equipped better than them. Why does Return of the Jedi come to mind, when the Ewoks launch an attack on the shield generator base? At any rate, the entire area will be severely disturbed, if not devastated.

In the end, next year’s G-8 summit reeks of a party that will go horribly wrong if kept in Kananskis. Another site should be considered entirely. Protesters definitely won’t be waiting on any invitations in the mail.

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