We are Justice

Keith Reimer, Karen Moore and Kyle Friesen

Photo of Keith Reimer, Karen Moore and Kyle Friesen

You didn’t see them up on the podium, but the Department of Justice Canada 2010 Winter Olympic Games behind-the-scenes teams deserve nothing less than gold. 

Besides being one of the largest sports gatherings in the world, the Games also involved the largest peacetime deployment of security and policing operations ever to take place on Canadian land, air and sea – 7,000 police officers and 4,000 Canadian Forces and private security personnel.
With more than 35 federal departments and agencies involved, it was clear that a team of Justice lawyers was needed to respond to legal issues that might arise before, during, and after the Games.

In the event of a crisis during the Olympics, for example, many policing operations would require immediate legal assistance. 

In preparation for that possibility, Kyle Friesen, British Columbia Regional Office (BCRO) Acting Senior Counsel in the Public Safety, Defence and Immigration Portfolio, was one of four lawyers located onsite at the Integrated Security Unit Command Centre in south Richmond. 

The national Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games Justice Network included 120 lawyers, representing scores of federal departments and agencies involved in the Olympics.

The lawyers worked at the central location responsible for monitoring safety and security at the Olympic Games, where they were ready and able to provide legal advice instantly to the senior RCMP officer in charge, should any incident arise.

“We prepared for all possible threats and risks and the probability of each, from running out of water to an act of terrorism,” says Kyle, who has been for the past six years the legal advisor to the Integrated Security Unit, which has more than 500 personnel from two dozen agencies. 

The scope of the colossal challenge was reflected by the number of sites involved – approximately 185 official Olympic venues in and around Vancouver and Whistler, including sports stadiums, ovals and ski hills, athletes’ villages, VIP accommodations, free Olympic experience sites, pavilions, celebration tents, and designated protest areas.

The BCRO played a central role in the Department’s preparations and participation before and during the Games.

The regional office’s 2010 Justice Emergency Team was the office’s primary point of contact for all Games-related issues. It also acted as the Department’s “eyes on the ground” for the Games, with teams of lawyers, communications and security specialists on call 24/7. 

“We had planned for a lot of possibilities and scenarios,” says Keith Reimer, Senior Counsel, Legal Risk Management, who was the BCRO Games coordinator. For example, the region and Headquarters participated in major emergency and security exercises over a period of 18 months prior to the Games.

“Having gone through Exercises Bronze, Silver and Gold and the general preparations leading up to the Games, the work during the Olympics themselves felt organized and totally under control.”

Bronze, Silver and Gold involved thousands of people and hundreds of municipal, provincial, federal, and international organizations, as well as the private sector, transportation, emergency and first responders, utility providers and a host of others. The exercises were designed to help the players prepare for any eventuality, including multiple concurrent worst-case scenarios.

In Ottawa, the Headquarters Justice Emergency Operations Centre – where counsel meet during a crisis to coordinate the input of the various lawyers across the country – also kicked into full gear as the Department’s national coordination hub. 

A number of other key groups also focused their energies on the Games.

The national Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games Justice Network included 120 lawyers, representing scores of federal departments and agencies involved in the Olympics.

The national Justice Emergency Team was a smaller virtual network of Justice lawyers from every area of the Department that assisted with Olympic public safety and security issues.

“Everything went really well and as expected during the Olympics,” says Karen Moore, Senior Counsel, Canadian Heritage Legal Services, who was the Network Coordinator.

“Exercises Silver and Gold were really great. They simulated a much higher and more intense level of multiple incidents – definitely excellent training and preparation for the real thing.”

“Everybody knew the flow of information – knew that people were in place to respond to emergencies,” says Keith.

“In the end, although we only had to respond to routine matters throughout the Games, it was reassuring to know that, every step of the way, all was in place to respond to any high-level emergency that might come up. I think that, in and of itself, was a very productive part of the whole Olympic experience.”

The Department won’t be resting on its laurels now that the Olympic and Paralympic flames have both been extinguished.

The Headquarters emergency team and operations centre are preparing for the two upcoming high-security events: this summer’s G8 Summit in Huntsville and the G20 Summit in Toronto.

With the insights, expertise and experience gained from the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Department is confident that it is 2010 Summit-ready.