Who stands on guard for we?
Jennifer BrownFeatures Opinion
It would seem logical, in this day and age, that critical infrastructure sites such as hydro utilities and other energy generation stations would be subject to terror concerns.
Most energy security professionals will tell you, however, that it’s domestic, day-to-day threats of vandalism, that are the greatest concern.
Case in point, a year ago, the province of Ontario offered a $50,000
reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those
responsible for damage done to the Hydro One transformer station in
Caledonia, Ont., the site of a bitter aboriginal occupation.
On May 22, 2006, vandals shut down the station, cutting power to
thousands of residents in surrounding Norfolk and Haldimand counties.
The incident followed a day of unrest that saw native and non-native
demonstrators clash once again in what has become a year-long
occupation of a controversial Caledonia housing development.
The police report indicates someone forcefully entered the Hydro One
transformer’s enclosed compound on Argyle Street in Caledonia. A
four-wheel drive truck that had been stolen from an auction centre in
another town was located inside the Hydro One secure compound, gutted
The police investigation revealed that extensive damage was done to the
transformer station building and property, which was the direct cause
of the power outage. Damage to the transformer station was estimated at
about $1.5 million for physical damage, cost to repair and staff time,
but did not include loss of revenue. Since then, Hydro One has
established around-the-clock contract security at the site.
Officials are careful to point out that no one has been arrested and to
date no one has been able to link the incident to the protests.
More recently, an aboriginal blockade halted rail traffic between
Toronto and Montreal for more than 30 hours. That incident represents
an attack on federal infrastructure and more “economic disruptions”
have been threatened.
Ontario Provincial Police Chief Julian Fantino says he’s “not in the
business of negotiating land claims.” He’s right, his job is to try to
keep the peace.
So it begs the question, where is the federal government in a situation
where there are two issues that fall into the jurisdiction of federal
concern — critical infrastructure protection and native land claims?
Each side in the Caledonia issue has proven to be equally volatile —
this isn’t an issue of assigning blame, but protection.
Federal Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice says a resolution on the
land claim issue is a long way off. Fair enough. But what is the
government doing to address the protection of oil, gas and chemical
installations, transportation and telecommunications sites that exist
on disputed lands? Right now, it largely remains the job of police and
corporate security, who find themselves caught smack in the middle.
Jennifer Brown, Editor
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