|Copyright New Catholic Times Jun 23, 1996
You've been misinformed," said the assistant conference co-ordinator at
the CIBC Leadership Centre in King City, a comfortable bedroom community
near Toronto. "I've never heard of such a meeting."
On a second try I was transferred to James Hyslop, hired to be a
spokesperson by Conrad Black, the host of the meeting. "What can you tell
me about this meeting?" I asked.
Absolutely nothing," he said.
Public Affairs, Canadian Defence Forces, left me a phone message
saying, "I'm afraid we have absolutely no information on that conference
in King City and if we did we probably couldn't divulge it."
But I hadn't been misinformed. On a quiet corner just outside King City
last weekend, queens and princes were sweeping through an unassuming
gateway in a demure procession of limousines. A group of dignitaries, the
like of which Canada has seen maybe twice before in its entire history,
was drifting in for a highly secret meeting of the Bilderberg group, and
the media blackout seemed almost perfectly successful: nobody was paying
any attention. But a man in jeans, wearing a bullet-proof vest and a belt
that looked as if it was stuffed with pistols, was paying a lot of
attention. He threatened to arrest me as I stood at the roadside taking
Some of the most powerful people in the Western world, heads of state
(including Chretien), industrialists (Rockefeller), media moguls (William
Buckley, Conrad Black), bankers (James Wolfensohn, President of the World
Bank) foreign affairs analysts (Kissinger) and military strategists
(William Perry, U.S. Secretary of Defence) were meeting over the weekend
to discuss "The Atlantic Relationship in a Time of Change," as a
vaguely-worded press release finally acknowledged. Their meeting was
chaired by the UK's Lord Carrington, former secretary-general of NATO.
Canadians included Mike Harris, Lloyd Axworthy, Ted Rogers, Fredrik Eaton,
and Al Flood (Chairman of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce).
The Bilderberg meetings originated in the mid-fifties with Dr. Joseph
Retinger who was worried about the collapse of the Western alliance. While
the U.S. was critical of Europe for not having managed to unite yet, U.S.
policies in Southeast Asia, the Cold War, and especially McCarthyism (then
raging) were distasteful to Europeans. There was a strong anti-American
sentiment in Europe, and having rejected both communism and fascism,
Retinger feared the European position was perilously weak. In order to
dissipate misunderstandings, he felt Americans needed to be confronted
with European criticisms.
Retinger's mode of operation, however, was always to work through a few
carefully selected people rather than to organize a publicity blitz. He
therefore invited an elite group of U.S. and European leaders to have a
private discussion about "the defence of Western ethical and cultural
values" in a hotel in Holland called the Bilderberg, and they've been
meeting every year since. Japan has never been invited, nor any
representative of the Third World.
They've done some good things, and some not so good," said Rosalie
Bertell, GNSH, of the International Institute of Concern for Public
Health. "When the U.S. was mandated by Congress not to transfer nuclear
technology to places like Argentina, Brazil and South Africa, they brought
it up at a Bilderberg meeting and one of the German delegates got Germany
to do it. They used the meeting to get around U.S. laws."
This is a democracy," said Conrad Black's spokesperson. "People are
entitled to have a private party and to say what they want to. There's a
big difference between secret and private. If you're talking to a friend
in your house you're not having a 'secret' conversation, it's simply
But this is not exactly your neighbourhood drinks party. "I think it is
the most powerful group of people in the world," said Bertell. "They
individually have money and power. They gain power by working together and
are protected by secrecy. They are not held up to scrutiny like a head of
state would be, they can do whatever they want to with impunity. It has
been going on every year since 1954--the same group of people wielding
power internationally over a 40-year period. That's not an emergency,
that's a lifetime intervention, that's shaping the direction of the
I'm not worried about it at all," said Roy Megarry, former publisher of
the Globe and Mail. "Yes, people who hold public office should be
accountable, but the fact that Chretien holds public office shouldn't
interfere with his ability to speak in confidence. On the contrary, he has
to be able to do that. He's normally surrounded by three or four very
close advisors and it's very hard to get him exposed to new ideas, so if
he's willing to go and sit with a few leaders from different walks of life
and beexposed to new ideas, that's a good thing."
There were a number of people standing outside the Leadership Centre
who didn't think the meeting was innocent in the least. One man said it
was the New World Government trying to take control of the world, and
cautioned another onlooker that his private property would soon be
confiscated. Another man explained that it was all to do with Ontario
Hydro being sold to foreign owners, and the group's real agenda is
controlling all the world's resources. Robert Gaylon Ross, author of Who's
Who of the Elite, claims that the Bilderberg group decides when wars
should start and end, sets the price of gold, runs currencies up and down
for their own financial gain, decides who will run for office in all the
leading countries of the world, and controls the media.
With Conrad Black's Hollinger Corp. buying up most of Canada's
newspapers as we speak, it's easy to resonate with paranoid reactions. And
from the very beginning, guests on Retinger's invitation list have had an
uncanny tendency to accede to the highest offices within a very few
Anthony Griffin, Honorary Chairman of Guardian Capital, is a Canadian
businessman who has been attending Bilderberg conferences for 33 years. He
received me graciously in the comfort of his house in Forest Hill to talk
about Bilderberg. We were attended by a housekeeper in a white uniform who
wordlessly brought us our lunch on trays. The cocker spaniel stayed in the
I am sitting directly under an imposing portrait of Griffin's
grandfather, Sir William Mackenzie, builder--among an astonishing number
of other enterprises--of the Canadian Northern Railway (later to become
the CNR) and the Toronto streetcar system. Griffin defends his
grandfather's entrepreneurial spirit, although many Canadian historians
have labeled him a buccaneer.
The object of the Bilderberg meetings has always been the exchange of
ideas, and it has been deliberately set up so as to exclude any
attributions at all, in order to provide an atmosphere of total
confidence, where no one is going to have a statement thrown back at them
in the political sphere," he said. "I've never seen a single case where
this rule has not been rigorously, scrupulously observed."
Griffin credits the Bilderberg with giving world leaders the chance to
"hear the other chap's point of view." No one, he says, leaves a meeting
without having his opinions affected.
However, there are other chaps and then there are other chaps, Griffin
admits. "I wouldn't say we would never ask Gerry Adams to come to a
Bilderberg, but we certainly haven't. He represents a certain point of
view, he'd be a very controversial person to have."
The agenda this year included an update on the western alliance;
Yugoslavia; Russia; the enlargement of the European Union; the survival of
the European economy; the limits to Western economic growth; and the U.S.
presidential elections. There was a briefing by the Director General of
the World Trade Organization and the President of the World Bank; and a
session on China.
There was a last minute session on the Israeli election," said Griffin,
"but I had arranged a golf game with Mike Harris. We decided just to miss
Ethics, human rights, and the environment don't come up as such at
Bilderberg, except in a precise context. "I can't remember a single item
dealing with morals or ethics in the abstract," he said. In the financial
realm for example, said Griffin, "options markets and derivatives could
easily come up, but not in the sense of moral judgments, or the good of
society in general. It might come up in the form of the question, 'Is the
present foreign exchange market operating in the best interests of
Griffin has no doubts about the ethics of his fellow-Bilderbergers.
"There is an ethical understanding among the Bilderberg members. The
individual behaviour of the sort of people you get at Bilderberg is of a
pretty high order, as far as we know. But business is still partly the
jungle/partly buccaneering, like my grandfather. I'm not sure business can
be dynamic without someone getting their toes trodden on."