North American Forum held in secret at Banff Springs Hotel - September 19, 2006

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Sep 21, 2006, 11:40:09 AM9/21/06
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North American Forum held in secret at Banff Springs Hotel
· U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld listed as keynote speaker;
critics say presence of "war criminal" should have been announced

By Aaron Paton
Tuesday September 19, 2006

Banff Crag & Canyon - A handful of Banff residents are outraged the
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel hosted American political leaders in a
series of secret meetings with political and business leaders from
Canada, Mexico and the United States.

And they're suggesting the conference included a man some consider to
be the most powerful man in America: U.S. Defence Secretary Donald

An internal document obtained by the Banff Crag & Canyon shows that
Rumsfeld was scheduled to be a keynote speaker on Wednesday, Sept. 13,
although no one at the hotel would confirm or deny that he was in

Reported sightings of Rumsfeld couldn't be confirmed by the Crag, but
his speech was supposed to have been entitled: Opportunities for
Security Co-operation in North America -- Military-to-military
Co-operation. It was scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

Sgt. Wayne Wiebe of the Banff RCMP said he had heard that
internationally protected persons (IPPs) like Rumsfeld may have been
coming to Banff last week but increased police security was not
requested by the Banff Springs.

The 2006 North American Forum, entitled Continental Prosperity in the
New Security Environment, was hosted by the Canadian Council of Chief
Executives with help from the Canada West Foundation at the Springs
from Sept. 12 to 14. The first North American Forum that happened in
October, 2005 in Sonoma, Calif. was also kept secret.

Banff taxi driver Chris Foote said he heard rumblings of Rumsfeld's
alleged visit soon after he noticed that a Mexican Flag had been placed
atop the Banff Springs.

"People should know if these people are getting together and
talking," Foote said. "(Canada, Mexico and America) have three
conservative governments now and all of the sudden this is

Foote, a former Green Party candidate in Wild Rose, added that whether
or not Rumsfeld was in town, many people in Banff would be appalled
that the Springs was supposedly hosting a man he termed a "war
criminal," and will protest at the Banff Springs on Monday, Sept. 25
at 3 p.m.

Former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed co-chaired the event alongside
former U.S. secretary of state George Shultz and former Mexican finance
minister Pedro Aspe. Canadians scheduled to attend included Minister of
Public Safety Stockwell Day, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Rick
Hillier and Alberta Energy Minister Greg Melchin.

American invitees included Rumsfeld, his assistant, Lt. Gen. Gene
Renuart and former secretary of energy and defence James Schlesinger.

The list also includes businessmen such as Roger Gibbins, president and
CEO of Canada West Foundation, and Ron T. Covais, president of the
Lockheed Martin Corporation, which is the largest weapons manufacturer
in the United States.

Topics included "A Vision for North America," "A North American
Energy Strategy," "Demographic and Social Dimensions of North
American Integration," and "Opportunities for Security

John Larsen, spokesman for the North American Forum, said that the
public was not notified of the closed and private meeting and would not
confirm or deny that Rumsfeld or anyone else was in attendance. He said
he did not know who paid for the forum.

"There are all kinds of conferences going on at the Banff Springs
that draw illuminaries and if those conferences are private in nature
then I think we also have to respect that these people, by nature of
the offices that they hold, still have a right to a certain degree of
privacy," Larsen said.

He added that the meetings are not meant to be secret and that
individuals are allowed to say if they attended the forum.

"People that are relatively senior in business... if they're going
to come to these things and put their open and frank discussions on the
table in order for those conversations to be as fruitful as possible
they want to think that there's some (confidentiality).

"You can imagine that if this was all televised or open to public
scrutiny, the nature of the conversations and ultimately what you would
be able to do with those conversations and how far you might be able to
advance the solutions around it would be different."

The only media member invited to the event was the Wall Street
Journal's Mary Anastasia O'Grady, according to the list of
participants provided to the Crag.

Banff resident Aaron Doncaster heard that Rumsfeld may have been coming
last week and handed out pamphlets to customers and hotel workers at
the Banff Springs soon after the event had ended.

"It disturbs me because he's got a lawsuit against him from the
American Civil Liberties Association for the torture and abuse of
prisoners of war in U.S. military custody," Doncaster said.

He added that the public should have been notified of the forum
regardless of Rumsfeld's presence in Banff.

"Protesters have a right to be heard," Doncaster said. "That's
the most democratic way we can show our disapproval of our elected

A peaceful protest will be held outside the Banff Springs Hotel next
Monday, Sept.25 at 3 p.m. on the sidewalk of Spray Avenue. The pamphlet
advertising says "We are protesting the Banff Springs Hotel's
involvement in this crime of treason against Canadian, American and
Mexican Citizens."

Banff Springs spokesperson Lori Grant said it's against the hotel's
policy to talk about any meetings or guests at the hotel.

"In Canada we have the right to protest, so they can," Grant said.
All documents obtained by the Crag were obtained from Canadian
publisher and politician Mel Hurtig.

He's the author of political writings such as The Betrayal of Canada,
The Vanishing Country and Rushing to Armageddon.

"It's astonishing that there could be such an important meeting of
so many high-level people from government and other organizations where
apparently the desire was to not let the public know about these
meetings," Hurtig said. "All Canadians had best be concerned about
the purpose of this conference and what went on at the conference.

"The fact that they're having these meetings in secret is of even
greater concern."

Stockwell Day and Peter Lougheed did not immediately return phone calls
but the office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Harper was not in
Banff last week.

Rumours circulating in Banff said the hotel's fourth floor was taken
up by the conference and that many of its attendees showed up in the
middle of the night in buses.

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