Commentator barred from G8 media site
Coalition leader can't imagine what threat she presents to RCMP
The Ottawa Citizen
The Ottawa Citizen Pam Foster says she has participated in anti-globalization protests and spoken out against particular policies and practices of government. 'It is now apparent to me that the government has equated these democratic acts as being a threat to security.'
A well-known Canadian social commentator, who is "well respected" by at least one Chrétien cabinet minister, has been refused media accreditation for the upcoming G8 summit in Alberta because of security concerns. Pam Foster, who is the co-ordinator of the Halifax Initiative, a Canadian coalition of development, environment and labour groups formed in advance of 1995 G7 summit in Halifax, is being denied access to the media centre in Calgary -- even though it is 85 kilometres from the actual summit. The move by the RCMP comes as a surprise to people Ms. Foster has worked with over the past few years, including former finance minister Paul Martin and junior minister Gar Knutson.
The 32-year-old environmentalist received media accreditation for last year's G8 meeting in Genoa, Italy, but on Saturday she was told by the RCMP that she failed this year's accreditation criteria. Ms. Foster says she was told that she was rejected because she matched one of four criteria for disqualification. The criteria are: having a criminal record; being mentally unfit; exhibiting anti-social behaviour; or having political views that are subversive, violent or extremist.
Ms. Foster says she does not believe she matches any of those criteria, but the RCMP will not inform her of the basis for her rejection. "I have participated in anti-globalization protests and spoken out against particular policies and practices of government. It is now apparent to me that the government has equated these democratic acts as being a threat to security and shown that they are equating activism and terrorism," said Ms. Foster.
The RCMP's Keith Redl, co-ordinator of the media accreditation, who informed Ms. Foster on Saturday of her lost accreditation, refused to disclose the security criteria or confirm the criteria cited by Ms. Foster. He said only seven people were rejected among 3,500 applications and that the accreditation process was rigorous.
The deadline for applications was June 1, and there is no avenue of appeal. While Ms. Foster says she can seek her file through an Access to Information request, it would likely be rejected because of "national security" concerns.
Ms. Foster had been planning to write for the monthly journal Upstream, a newsletter put out by Montreal's social justice committee, as well as other NGO publications and Web sites. The accreditation would have given her access to the media centre in downtown Calgary, where news releases, telephone hookups and video link-ups with the summit will be provided for journalists.
"This is of course completely wacky. You could not find a more professional person on the subject of G8 history and its role. It is not as if she is in any way an eccentric presence. She is a solely responsible, stable soul," said Gerry Barr, president of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Martin said Ms. Foster has met numerous times with the former finance minister when he held consultations with NGOs, and he knows her on a "first-name basis."
"He doesn't at all consider her a security threat. On a professional basis, he has always found her advice useful. He certainly always listened to what she has to say," said the spokeswoman. Suzanne McConnell, a spokeswoman in Mr. Knutson's office, said the minister has worked with Ms. Foster and knows her to be \well respected\ in environmental circles.
Among her responsibilities at the Halifax Initiative, Ms. Foster writes articles analysing the international financial system and its institutions for non-governmental organizations and community papers and radio. Ms. Foster says the views she has expressed in public are those in her professional capacity of a coalition with such groups as the Canadian Labour Congress, Oxfam and CUSO.
When asked whether there might be a dark secret in her closet, as suggested by Mr. Redl, Ms. Foster said it is possible that the RCMP infiltrated an organizational meeting of activist groups where she suggested that one form of protest on environmental issues would be to litter Parliament Hill. But she said such a protest would have been held only if the proper permits had been obtained first. "I work for churches, after all," she added. Ms. Foster said she is still travelling to Calgary next week but she will be able to cover the summit on the outside only without access to the media centre.
June 2002 - Ottawa Citizen
Commentator barred from G8 media site