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CANADA 2002 Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006

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Security forces brace for worst-case scenario at G8 Summit


Security for the G8 Summit is so far-reaching it's touching the youngest of Calgarians.

Nearly a year of careful planning, involving local police, the RCMP, intelligence agencies, the army and local health and school officials, will come into effect when the G8 Summit begins in Kananaskis Country, about an hour west of Calgary, on June 27.

The end result will be like nothing the city has ever experienced. Security will be tighter than it was during the World Petroleum Congress two years ago or during the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.

"The events of Sept. 11 raised the bar considerably," said RCMP Cpl. Jamie Johnston, a G8 security planner and spokesman. "We need to respond to the realities of today's world."

The G8 security plans, estimated to cost more than $100-million, are the largest during peacetime in Canadian history.

"We plan for the worst-case scenario. Then we allow the intelligence to decide for us whether or not we implement it 100 per cent or on a lesser scale," said Cpl. Johnston.

"Everything here is intelligence-driven. We need to be reactive to scale up or scale down."

But there seems be no talk of scaling down for Canada's military.

The Canadian forces' presence in K-Country is a combination of land support, the Air Defence Anti-Tank System throughout the area and F-18 fighters in the air.

Military officials have announced that a no-fly zone, covering a 130-kilometre radius around Kananaskis Village, will be in effect from June 25-28.

The 80-nautical-mile no-fly zone, dubbed Operation Grizzly, doesn't affect Calgary International Airport but planes will not be allowed to fly out of the smaller Springbank Airport on the northwest side of Calgary.

The operation's coordinator, Col. Mike McLean, Air Component Commander, says notices have been sent to every pilot in North America warning them to stay out of the no-fly zone.

"I have to say that since Sept 11th we've had to re-think our entire approach to air defence, in terms of homeland defence. Before it was the enemy outside the borders coming in. Now we're looking at a situation to have threats coming in from friendly air bases," said Col. McLean.

The no-fly area will be strictly enforced.

"So when you come into that airspace, which we're going to have complete control over, we're going to know who's suppose to be there, who's not suppose to be there. So it's very important that if you don't have a reason to be there, you shouldn't be there, cause it's going to be a dangerous place to fly," Col. McLean said.

"If people do that they're in a dangerous area. They're going to be met with armed response, that is going to be poised and ready to shoot these guys down if necessary," he added.

Back on the ground Calgary officials aren't taking any chances either.

According to a memo sent to all public school principals, areas of the city have even been deemed off limits to students during the Summit. The University of Calgary is closed for field trips from June 21-27 and there will be no school trips to Kananaskis Country after June 8.

School board officials have also been advised that children should stay away from downtown Calgary until after the conclusion of the Summit on June 28, in the event protests get out of hand.

Meanwhile, some merchants in the downtown core where protests are expected are considering boarding up their stores.

Jim Jinah, whose family has owned and operated a souvenir store on Stephen Avenue in the heart of downtown Calgary for 22 years, does most of his business during the summer months. But, fearing violent protests, he's considering shutting down when the G8 Summit is on.

"I am scared. What's going to happen? We don't know if we are going to close, stay open, or board up," said Jinah.

For several months leading up to the Summit, police visited 1,800 downtown street-level businesses, training owners and workers how to protect themselves and their property should a riot occur.

"I'm prepared to close my doors quickly and get out in case there's rioting or what have you," said Ike Damani, the owner of a souvenir shop in downtown Calgary, across from Olympic Plaza in the heart of the city.

While he's looking forward to increased sales the G8 might bring, he's also worried about security. During the Summit Damani plans to bring his outdoor displays inside. And as an added precaution he recently invested in chains and padlocks for his doors and windows.

There have been reports that about 6,000 police are expected to be on duty during the Summit. However, the RCMP's Cpl. Johnston said any numbers, both for the size of the force and for its cost, are purely speculative.

But, even with thousands of police on duty, security organizers expect businesses to be disrupted during the Summit.

"What we're trying to do is to enable businesses to mitigate the effect of those disruptions and to carry on business as usual," said Calgary police Insp. Al Redford, a member of the G8 security planning team.

The Calgary Health Region (CHR) is also busy readying for medical care of the public and leaders during the summit. Health officials said the plans are so comprehensive it will likely be able to market them to cities holding similar summits or meetings in the future.

The CHR is spending just under $2-million to get ready for the Summit and has been working with police, fire and emergency medical services to prepare for any eventuality.

Protestors trashed parts of Genoa, Italy, during last year's G8 meeting as they clashed with police who fought back with tear gas.

"(We are preparing) for any kind of trauma emergencies that might happen. Mass casualties. Release of toxic agents. Things like that," said Norma Wood, the Calgary Health Region's G8 project leader.

Medics on the scene of any attacks will use biological suits and they'll be armed with antibiotics to fight bacterial diseases like anthrax.

"What we've planned for is for an exposure of 1,000 people. We would have enough antibiotic in the city to treat them for three to five days," said Steve Long, the CHR's director of pharmacy.

More antibiotics are available in Ottawa and could be shipped out to Calgary if the need is greater.

The CHR has also taken delivery of five portable decontamination units - at a price tag of between $35,000 and $40,000 each. They can be fully functional in about 30 minutes and would be used to deal with heavy exposures to tear gas and pepper spray.

Each unit can decontaminate about 36 patients an hour. There are also five permanent decontamination systems at hospitals and a downtown clinic in Calgary.

This level of preparation for the G8 Summit is new to Canada. But Ms Wood believes it's arrived just in time.

"Canada doesn't really have this capability. We've never had to before. This isn't something that we've needed."

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