Shadowy group meets amid secrecy in Ottawa

A shadowy group of world leaders and decision makers are meeting in Ottawa this weekend, cloaked in a blanket of security and secrecy that has conspiracy theorists’ websites working overtime.

Considered one of the world’s most powerful and secret societies, the Bilderberg group’s annual meeting was scheduled to be attended by about 130 people at the Brook Street Resort.

The guest list, according to an unsigned press release obtained by The Canadian Press, includes the likes of David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, Holland’s Queen Beatrix, and New York Gov. George Pataki.

And the Canadian complement includes Indigo books CEO Heather Reisman and former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna.

British prime ministers Tony Blair has spoken to the group in the past, as have former Canadian prime ministers Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien. Stephen Harper attended in 2003, when he was Opposition Leader. The prime minister is not expected, however, to attend this year’s conference.

Conspiracy theories

Conspiracy theorists maintain the group has played a key role in world events, allegedly orchestrating the move to a common European currency and getting Bill Clinton elected after he agreed to sign onto NAFTA. And in Yugoslavia, Serbs have blamed Bilderberg for starting the war that led to the downfall of former dictator Slobodan Milosevic.

And according to the release, this year’s group will discuss high oil prices and the best way to deal with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But beyond the press release — which was tantamount to transparency by Bilderberg standards — there is little indication about what will take place within the hotel.

Canadian writer Daniel Estulin, who has been following Bilderberg for years, describes it as a “powerful” group of politicians and business people with one objective: “To create a one-world government where you don’t have individual nations — you have one region, one religion, one constitution, one church, one currency and one country.”

“And you’re seeing it right now as you have NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and you have the European Community (EC),” Estulin, author of Club Bilderberg, said Friday on CTV’s Mike Duffy Live.

The author claims he has several “intimate friends” who are Bilderbergers, who are constantly feeding him information about the proceedings.

Journalists are banned from the proceedings, except in special cases, and attendees never speak about what took place inside the meetings.

“No one is allowed to talk about it — but you have within the conference itself the members of the Bilderberg press,” said Estulin, adding that members of The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek magazine, The Financial Times and Time magazine are in attendance.

Security measures

Other guests at the Ottawa hotel were asked to check-out before Thursday, cars left in the parking lot will be towed, and members of the hotel gym were told it would be inaccessible for four days.

On Thursday, this year’s guests began arriving at the suburban Ottawa location.

They came in black limousines and sedans with darkly tinted windows, surrounded by burly security guards and passing through a security checkpoint a half-kilometre away from the hotel.

Even uniformed Ottawa police were required to show identification to private security personnel before passing through the gates.

The Bilderberg group has been surrounded in high level secrecy since it was established by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands in 1954.

The group, which is known by the name of the Dutch hotel where the first conference was held, was originally formed with the goal of establishing better cooperation and understanding between the U.S. and Europe.

There are no real members of the group. Instead, a secret steering committee sends out invitations to mainly business and political leaders each year.

The group has headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands, at a building where phone calls are met by a recorded voice with instructions to leave a message, and calls are reportedly never returned.

Critics such as Estulin say the group is sinister and elitist, and that it operates entirely through self interest.

If the group’s motives are legitimate, they ask, why keep their meetings so secret?

“Now you have 125 of the most powerful people in the world, and no one seems to want to know what these people are talking about. If this is not a conspiracy, I don’t know what is,” he said.

The group, however, claims secrecy is necessary in order to stimulate discussions.

“The meeting is private to encourage frank and open discussion,” said the press release.

“There will be no press conference.”

Over the past five years, the group’s annual meetings have been held in the following locations:

2000 (June 1-3) Brussels, Belgium

2001 (May 24-27) Gothenburg, Sweden

2002 (May 30-June 2) Chantilly,VA, United States

2003 (May 15-18) in Versailles, France

2004 (June 3-6) in Stresa, Italy

2005 (May 5-8) Rottach-Egern, Germany

With files from The Canadian Press