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Web site urges activists to shut down Whistler conference

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While thousands of anti-free trade activists prepare to descend on Genoa, Italy this July to protest the G-8 economic summit, West Coast activists are being encouraged to do their own part at home – namely shutting down the upcoming Pacific NorthWest Economic Region (PNWER) conference in Whistler.

One of the protest organizers posted a call to action on the Elaho List Serve on June 25, calling on all interested parties to help shut down the PNWER’s annual general meeting in Whistler – "unceded Lil’wat Territory" – from July 25 to 28.

According to "Tintin," the activist that posted the letter; "PNWER wants to eliminate local trade barriers and maximize profits with NAFTA-like results. It is attempting to create an economic region in the pacific northwest that is a ‘model of rapid clean growth’. Not discussed at the meeting are the sovereign rights of indigenous people, the rights of the poor and the working class, or protecting land and water ecosystems."

The PNWER conference is billed as the "Future of the North American WEST: Three Nations, One Region." Topics on the agenda, which is posted at the PNWER Web site at www.pnwer.org, include privatized health care verses public health care, regional free trade, NAFTA, the proposed Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), the new high-tech economy, traditional resource and agricultre-based industries, and the trade of energy resources.

Bill Gates of Microsoft is one of the scheduled speakers at the conference, hosting a session on NAFTA and the New Economy. Other speakers include B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, whom Tintin refers to as a "right wing fascist," Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne, and Jim Kolbe, a congressman from Arizona and a member of the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Affairs.

The Council of State Governor’s West (CSG-WEST) will also be holding their annual meeting in conjunction with the PNWER conference, bringing State governors together to discuss issues that are specific to their areas.

Staff Sergeant Hilton Haider of the Whistler RCMP detachment said he was not told about either the PNWER conference or the protest, but said the police would be looking into it.

The RCMP have protocols to provide security for high profile visitors, such as politicians and business leaders like Gates. They also have protocols to deal with protests, and the RCMP can scale their crowd control forces accordingly.

"The first thing that we would like to know is who the people are who are coming to Whistler to see if there is any danger there," says Haider. "When we know who we’re dealing with, we’ll have a better idea how to respond."

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