|Andrew Seymour and Andrew Mayeda, with a file from James Bagnall|
|The Ottawa Citizen|
Thursday, June 08, 2006
An elite private security firm has been hired to guard a top-secret meeting of some of the world's most powerful business and political leaders at a Kanata hotel starting today.
Members of the Bilderberg Group will descend on the upscale Brookstreet Hotel for the three-day meeting, several police sources confirmed yesterday.
At least four off-duty Ottawa police officers will be part of the security for the event.
The highly secretive session, expected to touch on global issues such as the direction of oil markets and potential military action against Iran, will run through Sunday.
Senior Ottawa police officers met yesterday afternoon to discuss preparations for the event, which police are concerned may draw the attention of anti-globalization protesters as well as present a potential security risk as a collection of the world's richest and most influential people gather under one roof.
When asked about police plans for the event, a police spokeswoman referred the Citizen to Alan Bell of Globe Risk Holdings.
Reached by phone, Mr. Bell -- who is listed as president of Globe Risk Holdings in Toronto and a former SAS paratrooper commando -- said he hadn't heard of the Bilderberg Group and denied that his firm has been hired to guard this week's conference.
"Never heard of that conference. What is it? What do they do?" said Mr. Bell before politely cutting the conservation short.
But according to the company's website, Globe Risk Holdings specializes in "strategic planning and counter-measures," recruits its consultants primarily from elite military counter-terrorist and special forces units, and has "undertaken consultancy and project work worldwide in areas of high risk" including Africa, Central and South America and Asia.
"The consultants at Globe Risk Holdings have proven backgrounds in military, special forces, law enforcement and government organizations with real life expertise in the areas of international security, mining, energy exploration security, counter-terrorism, kidnapping, specialized training, close protection, sabotage prevention, and military/law enforcement," reads the company website. "Knowledgeable and discreet, our consultants work together as a team to offer the quality of service necessary to meet all our clients' needs."
It's not known if any current heads of state are expected to attend the meeting.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been linked to the group after attending a Bilderberg conference in Versailles, France in 2003. A spokeswoman for the prime minister said yesterday he would not be attending the conference and that officials at the Prime Minister's Office weren't aware of the event.
The Bilderberg Group is named after the Dutch hotel where it held its first meeting in 1954. Since then, the group has met annually in various locations throughout North America and Europe, including Toronto in 1996 and the Chateau Montebello in Quebec in 1983.
The list of attendees at last year's conference in Germany is believed to have included the queens of Spain and the Netherlands, former U.S. secretary of defence Henry Kissinger, World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, as well as top executives and directors at such multinational corporations as BP PLC, Siemens AG, Deutsche Bank Group and DaimlerChrysler AG.
Canadian attendees are believed to have included Robert Pritchard, chief executive of TorStar Corp., and Heather Reisman, chief executive of Indigo Books and Music Inc.
The group was originally conceived as a forum for bridging the political and economic divide between Europe and the United States during the Cold War. But in recent years the group has taken on a mystique, perhaps due to the secretive nature of the meetings.
The group has no website, and attendees promise not to disclose the subject of the talks. Even newspaper and magazine editors and media executives who attend the event are sworn to secrecy.
Bilderberg insiders say the approach enables participants to discuss political and economic issues without worrying how their opinions will be spun by the media. But it has also made the group a prime target for critics and conspiracy theorists who say its members come to important decisions about global public policy behind closed doors.
Whatever the case, Brookstreet staff are staying tight lipped about the conference. The hotel's general manager, Patrice Basille, didn't immediately return a call yesterday. He has previously said he was unaware of the event.
A Citizen reporter who called to make dinner reservations was told the hotel will be closed between June 8 and 11 to accommodate a private function.
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A Memorable Evening With the Bilderbergers
They were welcomed by an exquisite array of cakes bearing the flags of the world. In the evening, they dined on venison -- or was it quail? -- but only after the Bilderberg tasters made sure nothing was amiss with the sauce.
It has been more than two decades since one of the most powerful and exclusive clubs in the world held its annual meeting close to Canada's national capital.
But if this weekend's conference at the Brookstreet Hotel is anything like the meeting at the Chateau Montebello in Quebec in May 1983, it will be a closely choreographed affair swathed in luxury -- and a discreet but omnipresent layer of security.
Today, Jacques Ternois is director of hotel operations at charter airline Air Transat. But when the Bilderberg Group met in Montebello, about 30 kilometres east of Ottawa, he was in charge of food and beverage operations at the resort.
Mr. Ternois doesn't remember the exact menu served to the Bilderbergers, but he does remember the security guards stationed at the kitchen doors, the background checks that his staff had to undergo, and the food "consultants" brought in to oversee the meal.
Nevertheless, Mr. Ternois said the extra precautions weren't intrusive and the conference went off smoothly.
"I wouldn't say it was secretive. I would say low key," he said. "They were very simple in their demands."
Mr. Ternois said attendees came and went at various times throughout the conference due to their tight schedules. He couldn't recall all the names on the guest list -- after all, he was working -- or what they discussed.
"If I'm not wrong, I think (Henry) Kissinger was there," he said. "There were several heads of state or close to that."
Critics and conspiracy theorists find the group's clandestine ways disturbing. They accuse the group of seeking to depose political leaders and set global oil policy.
But Bilderberg insiders insist the reality is far less sinister.
"I don't think (we are) a global ruling class because I don't think a global ruling class exists," Bilderberg chairman Etienne Davignon told the BBC last year. "It's people who have influence interested to speak to other people who have influence."
Mr. Ternois, for his part, says the Bilderberg conference was one of the most prestigious events with which he has ever been associated. He still keeps a photo at home of resort staff and some of the attendees.
"It has a special place in my heart," he said.
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