Welcoming the world has new meaning in the 21st century

There is something slightly amusing yet at the same time frightening about the group – one assumes it’s a group, but who knows – urging activists to "shut down" the Pacific Northwest Economic Region meeting in Whistler later this month.

The Resist PNWER Web site doesn’t explain who is behind the campaign, but calls itself "Victoria’s web source for struggles against the state, capitalism, patriarchy, colonialism, racism, ecological alienation and destruction… and all forms of domination and exploitation." A veritable grab-bag of the oppressed and those who merely think they have it tough. The Web site includes links to organizations such as the American Indian Movement, Marginalized Workers Action League, Bioengineering Action Network and EarthFirst.

The Resist Web site defines the PNWER as "…yet another body of control that gives the reins of power over to rich white men who have been exploiting and killing the people and environment of this region since the first colonizers." Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who is expected to attend the PNWER conference, is likely a perfect example.

However, Mr. Gates probably isn’t sitting up nights worrying about the Resist PNWER people; when a link on the Resist Web site doesn’t work it offers a hot link to Microsoft Support.

Perhaps the Resist PNWER people should be taken lightly. Few people around Whistler seemed to know the PNWER conference was coming to town two weeks ago, never mind that an anti-PNWER group was planning to demonstrate at the conference. Lack of communication, not listening to the right channels, or perhaps organizers were trying to keep a low profile.

Ironically it seems to be through improved communication – specifically the Internet – that the anti-freetraders and those opposed to "the new global economy" have found each other and organized protests at meetings such as the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City three months ago and the Summit of European Union leaders in Gothenburg, Sweden last month. Many are expected in Genoa, Italy, with catapults and battering rams in an attempt to break up a G8 meeting, just days before the PNWER conference in Whistler.

The Whistler PNWER conference is pretty small potatoes compared to the G8 and WTO meetings, but Whistler could one day find itself hosting such high profile events. Whistler was being considered to host the World Economic Forum every second year, but is now apparently out of the running. It seems that Davos, Switzerland – the home of the World Economic Forum since the private foundation began bringing together political, business and academic leaders in 1970 – is getting fed up with the protests which accompany the forum, so is looking for someone else to host it every other year. Mr. Gates, among others, was reportedly advocating Whistler.

Fear of protests should not be sufficient reason to bow out of hosting an international event, whether it’s the World Economic Forum or the Olympics. To give in to threats is to concede defeat.

But at the same time security and safety are likely to become more common issues for Whistler in the years ahead. As the EarthFirst arson attack at Vail showed three years ago, resorts in the mountains are hardly isolated from the issues – perceived or real – facing the world today.

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