Some historical context is needed to properly understand this story. Some of this context is about the ways in which Canadian policing has changed and adapted over the years in response to the increasing corporatization and privatization of public services, shifting internal policing cultures, and changing activist tactics. In Lesley Wood’s book Crisis and Control: The Militarization of Protest Policing, she articulates:
As Wood explains, a relatively new change in Canadian policing and intelligence-gathering has been an increase of “integration”, or communication and collaboration between security agencies (e.g. between CSIS, the RCMP, municipal police forces, etc.). Ever since the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the Integrated Security Unit (ISU) has seemingly become the dominant organizational model for “securing” large-scale events in Canada. ISUs essentially operate as the “head” of large-scale security operations for major events; they are a multi-agency coordinating body that is formed for each mega-event and ensures that police, military, and intelligence agencies are working in concert with one another, sharing information, and dividing roles among the participating agencies. In terrorism investigations, similarly collaborative taskforces, called Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams, (INSETs), are used. After the Vancouver Olympics, this organizational form was also used to structure security operations for the G20 Summit in Toronto in June 2010 and the Pan Am Games in 2015. The ISU for the Pan Am Games began the planning phase of security provision for the Games in October 2010 (notably, just months after the Toronto G20 Summit).
The Joint Intelligence Group (JIG), typically a branch of the ISU, is concerned particularly with gathering and assessing intelligence about potential threats to event security. It is usually composed of CSIS, the RCMP, and whatever police agencies are involved in securing the event. The JIG coordinates intelligence gathering among these agencies and ensures that each agency tasked with securing major events is aware of the potential threats that this intelligence “uncovers”. Undercover operations are typically coordinated within the JIG and carried about by a particular policing agency. It’s public knowledge that this model of intelligence-gathering was used to securitize the 2015 Pan Am Games. Since the formation of the Pan Am Games’ JIG in September 2014, “threat assessments” (to determine the likelihood of phenomena such as terrorism and protests deemed to be threatening or undermining the Games) were to be conducted weekly until the Games began.
As we mentioned in the intro, three us are members of the Toronto-based activist group MISN, a small group that has been active for almost 10 years and that agitates against the violent and negligent practices of Canadian mining companies in solidarity with the communities impacted by their operations both in Canada and abroad. As the Pan Am Games approached, it was impossible for us to ignore the role of the Games’ medal supplier, Toronto-based mining company Barrick Gold. Barrick’s involvement in providing the gold, silver, and copper was announced in September 2014, and the medals were unveiled in March 2015 at a media event at the Royal Ontario Museum. We had already been talking about trying to leverage the general media blitz surrounding the Pan Am Games to intervene into nationalist sentiments about Canada as a “benevolent” country, but when Barrick’s involvement was announced we could hardly believe how much of the story was being left out. Press releases about the unveiling stated that the design of the medals was “meant to highlight unity across the Americas,” and was inspired by the unifying force of “land and water and the environment”. Even the Royal Canadian Mint’s construction of the medals used a special technique called “mokume gane” that “unifies” disparate materials into one final product. But as a mining justice group with ties to mining-impacted communities in vocal opposition to Barrick Gold’s practices of perpetrating violence, contaminating water supplies, causing illnesses, and bringing about a loss of livelihood in their communities, it was obvious to us that Barrick was using this as a propaganda tool to get some good press. Mining reproduces the colonial relationships at the root of Pan-American inequality and injustice; it was deeply ironic that this company could pretend to have anything to do with “unity”.
Meanwhile, TO2015 (the organization tasked with planning the Pan Am Games) announced in November 2014 that it was going to be significantly increasing its security budget to $247.4 million, more than doubling the amount that it had initially proposed in its bid for the games. The Joint Intelligence Group for the Toronto Pan Am Games had met for the first time in September 2014 to determine a security strategy for the games, and it was around this time that we first met Kat and Alex.