As Toronto's G-20 Summit Security Bill Mounts, the U.S. Issues a Travel Alert

CN Tower in Toronto
CN Tower in Toronto

Canada is footing a huge bill to host the G-8 and G-20 summits in Huntsville, Ontario and Toronto on June 25-27. Yet, despite the near $1 billion it's spending to protect world leaders and contain likely protests, the U.S. has issued a travel alert for Americans traveling to Toronto, angering Canadians across the country.

As it is, Canadians have been reeling over the summit's costs, which include a "fake lake" in the summit's media center. But the security bill comprises most of the expense. It's far greater than security bills in previous summits in London and Pittsburgh, critics point out, and more than that of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games, which covered far more ground and took two weeks.

The security measures of "Fortress Toronto" include a nine-foot-high, nearly four-mile-long metal-link fence surrounding a part of downtown Toronto; uprooting of mail and newspaper boxes, bus shelters, trash bins and even trees; and, of course, a huge security force with over 5,000 officers from across the nation. Already, fighter jets can be heard piercing the quiet of the surrounding downtown neighborhoods.

The Blue Jays Get Shifted Out of Town

Within the security perimeter zone lies the heart of Toronto's financial district, including Bay Street and the Toronto Stock Exchange, which has established a secret backup location in the suburbs if needed. Trading floors at big Canadian banks have done the same, and law firms have booked hotel rooms for crucial "deal teams."

Also within the zone is Toronto's landmark CN Tower (pictured), which will be closed, and the Rogers Centre -- home of the Toronto Blue Jays Major League Baseball team, which had to shift the much anticipated three-game series with the Phillies to Philadelphia and postpone the return of beloved ace pitcher Roy Halladay.

No wonder Canadians are miffed the U.S. has issued a travel alert to their largest city. "Protesters are expected to gather in Toronto in the days leading up to the Summit, and access to parts of the downtown area will be restricted due to security requirements," the alert states. "U.S. citizens should avoid traveling in or through downtown Toronto during the Summit, if possible."

Promising Protests and More

Toronto Mayor David Miller says the U.S. State Department overreacted and that the travel alert is unnecessary. Other politicians also criticized the advisory.

Whether the warning is justified is yet to be seen. But already many groups, including the Canadian Labour Congress, Greenpeace, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, Oxfam and aboriginal rights groups among others, have promised protests, rallies, marches, highway blockades and further disruptions. If previous summits are any indication, violent protests and even riots aren't out of the question -- no matter how much money is spent on security.