Prime Minister Chretien’s preoccupation with security ranges from the absurd to the oppressive. As a result, police err on the side of caution to the point of silliness. The PM’s recent visit to Vancouver was an example of such a circus.
Chretien was in Vancouver’s Chinatown to open the new Millennium Gate. The Liberals had stacked the crowd with supporters but there were the inevitable protesters. It seems that the police were looking for dangerous weapons – – pies. They were eager, perhaps overzealous, to ensure that the PM was not pied as he was in Charlottetown during his visit in 2000.
A scuffle broke out in the back of the crowd and a CBC TV camera caught some of the action. A man was being hustled away by police. Police spokesperson Const. Sarah Bloor later said that he was being held because of an outstanding warrant. A second protestor was arrested for possible assault, although she did not provide details.
No wonder that she omitted the embarrassing details. The first suspect, the one caught on camera, was Vancouver lawyer Cameron Ward who represented APEC protesters charged after the PM’s visit in 1997.
Ward was held in a tiny concrete cell for five hours and later released without being charged. His car was seized and searched to see if Ward was carrying a pie. Police said that it was a case mistaken identity. They say that Ward matched the identity of a man who might throw a pie a the PM. The identity of the original suspect was not given.
What a coincidence. Cameron’s identity was well known by anyone who followed the APEC investigation by former judge Ted Hughes in 2001. But to the guardians of the PM, he looked just like someone who might throw a pie at Chretien.
The police were certainly pied by the Hughes inquiry. Hughes found that police actions during demonstrations at the 1997 APEC summit in Vancouver “did not meet an acceptable and expected standard of competence and professionalism and proficiency.”
The second suspect in Chinatown, kind of a latter-day Simple Simon, was also hustled away in handcuffs. “I was just standing there, eating a piece of pie,” said William Christiansen.
Now, this is cause for arrest. Whereas Ward looked like someone who might throw a pie, Christiansen had a dangerous pie in the vicinity of the PM. And he was eating the evidence.
The police have been over-zealous about protecting the PM ever since they were stung by an incident in 1995. That’s when a prowler slipped by the supposed high security surveillance system and past highly trained police into the PM’s residence.
He was about to enter the Chretien bedroom when Chrétien’s wife, Aline, slammed the door in the prowler’s face. The PM grabbed an nearby Inuit carving, ready to defend himself. Then the cream of the police took seven to ten minutes to respond to Aline’s calls for help. Chretien was not amused.
Chretien does not suffer protestors gladly. So when a protestor got in his way during Flag Day celebrations in 1996, the PM demonstrated some wrestling skills. He grabbed the scrawny Bill Clennet in headlock and gave him a shake.
When asked what happened, Chretien explained “Excuse me? I done know? What happen? My … you know because if he don’t know what happen. It happen something to somebody who should not have been there.”
It’s like something snapped. Since then, the PM’s tolerance for protestors has been low. He was certainly is willing to put the rights of world thugs like ex-General Suharto of the Philippines before peaceful protestors who sat in the road at the APEC meeting.
The short fuse of the police, led by the since promoted “Sergeant Pepper,” was reminiscent of Chretien’s charge though the protestors at Flag Day.
Chretien denied that he had directed the strong-arm tactics of the police but his modus operandi was all over it.
The Vancouver police may have averted pie on the face of Chretien but they have egg all over theirs.
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In my last column, I reported that that “three died of complications of cryptosporidiosis” in North Battleford. Saskatchewan’s chief Medical Officer investigated the three suspicious deaths and found that they were due to other causes. Also, tourism and the economy have rebounded since the infection, says Jim Toye, commissioner for the city of North Battleford.