Standing on guard for Stephen Harper
A member of the Vancouver Police Department moves a protester from in front of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's motorcade as he leaves an event at Science World in Vancouver, B.C. Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. (Jonathan Hayward / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Wednesday, August 15, 2012 3:59PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 15, 2012 4:03PM EDT
The Globe story of a canoeist frisked by police as he approached a weekend barbecue featuring the prime minister was good for a morning chuckle.
Garry Almond was happily preparing to paddle the Credit River in Mississauga on Monday evening, shouldering his canoe down a pathway when he came within eyeshot of a Conservative rapture session featuring leader Stephen Harper.
Police swooped in on the startled paddler, frisked him, briefly confiscated a knife he had for potential rescues and ordered him away from the site of the party group hug.
The tone of the article suggested this was a police over-reaction and hinted it was carried out lest a canoeist in the background contaminate the optics of the event.
But was it over-the-top to intercept someone unexpectedly entering the security blanket surrounding a Canadian prime minister?
Sorry, no. As the history of security breaches has shown, nutbars don’t always fit ethnic stereotypes or respect the boundaries of peaceful nations.
If they did, the prime minister of Sweden would not have been assassinated coming home from a movie in Stockholm.
Sure, there are times when you wonder if Harper relishes the show of major security force surrounding him.
His prime ministerial convoys seem to fluctuate in length depending on the circumstances -- three vehicles when he’s driving home for dinner, nine or more when he’s rushing around town in tandem with a visiting world leader.
And it’s true the $20-million-per-year tab for Harper’s protection detail has doubled since he became prime minister for a variety of reasons, particularly his busy travel agenda.
But assessing risk is best left to the pros as they create a balance between the need to keep the prime minister inside a safe perimeter while giving reasonable access to the public who elected him.
So when a canoeist with a bulky lifejacket strays unexpectedly into range when Harper’s exposed on a public stage, police have an obligation to investigate, no matter how innocuous the circumstances.
Canada has many more enemies on the world stage than during the pre-911, blue-helmet peacekeeper era when prime ministers could wave at tourists while having lunch on downtown Ottawa patios.
We’re a middle power in a world with wealthy enemies -- which makes our leaders a juicy target for the bad guys.
Every international tragedy triggered by a security breach ends with a long list of retrospective regrets at the oversights.
If reducing the chance of that happening in Canada entails a close look at any canoeists, cyclists or pedestrians straying inside the security bubble, well, prepare to be frisked.