OTTAWA – The Liberal government wants to lift the mystery surrounding the G7 summit as it prepares to host the gathering next year, in hopes that Canadians will feel more included and, perhaps, less inclined to protest on the periphery.
“The idea is to get input from Canadians,” Peter Boehm, the Canadian G7 summit sherpa, said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“What are they thinking about some of the big themes in the world, whether it’s economic inclusion, what the jobs of the future might look like, climate change, energy and, indeed, some of the big foreign policy and security questions that might be out there?” said Boehm.
The efforts to open the process up to Canadians includes Boehm speaking at a public event Thursday night, organized by the Toronto branch of the Canadian International Council and the G7 Research Group at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.
“A lot of this is listening and then feeding it through, but also a chance for us to demystify what the G7 is,” said Boehm, who is preparing for Canada to assume the G7 presidency in January, six months before it hosts the summit at a resort in La Malbaie, Que.
“It’s not just a big gathering where you see a lot of people and even more security.”
Heavy — and armed — security presence is a common sight on the edges of G7 summits, where the need to protect the leaders of powerful countries takes on added urgency due to crowds gathered for demonstrations, which have sometimes turned into violent clashes with police.
The turbulent Toronto G20 summit in 2010, which included mass arrests and cases of police misconduct, reverberated for years.
Boehm suggested involving Canadians along the road to the G7 summit is one way to get ahead of the issue.
“We all have the right to express our views and we fully expect that there will be people who will be expressing their views,” said Boehm. “My own view is that it is best to do that from an informed perspective, so that’s part of the reason for the outreach.”
Still, Boehm said the summit organizers will nonetheless be prepared for protests.
“In the past at large gatherings there has also been infiltration by less desirable elements who do not want to express views nor hear views, but they want to create mayhem,” he said. “So, on the security side, we will certainly be ready for that.”
— Follow @smithjoanna on Twitter