'Someone's in trouble' after protesters got close to Harper: security expert
Andrea Janus and Sonja Puzic, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, January 6, 2014 5:55AM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 6, 2014 6:24PM EST
Someone in the prime minister’s security detail likely will face “very difficult questions” after two protesters got within reach of Stephen Harper at an event in Vancouver, a former RCMP officer tasked with protecting dignitaries said Monday.
“Yes, someone’s in trouble,” Larry Busch of Strategic Security Inc. told CTV’s Power Play. “Someone will be on the carpet answering some very difficult questions.”
Busch, who was the RCMP officer in charge of providing security for the prime minister and visiting dignitaries in Ontario, said bodyguards should have acted “much earlier” to prevent the protesters from getting on stage behind Harper at the Vancouver Board of Trade on Monday.
As Harper was about to begin a question-and-answer session on energy and economic issues, two protesters stood behind him and held up signs that read “Climate Justice Now” and “The Conservatives take climate change seriously” with a line crossing out the phrase.
The protesters were dressed all in black and wore black aprons. Busch said it appeared that they were dressed as catering staff.
Security quietly removed both protesters without incident as Harper and board president Iain Black remained in their chairs on stage. Before they carried on with their agenda, Harper joked that “It wouldn’t be B.C.” without a protest.
Vancouver Police said after the incident that two people were arrested and quickly released. Police have yet to determine what, if any, charges will be laid.
“We will be working with the protection detail and the RCMP officers at the event today to determine if charges are going to be laid in this case,” Sgt. Randy Fincham told CTV News. “It’s too early to tell.”
Fincham said Vancouver Police were responsible for security outside the venue, while Harper’s personal security detail was responsible for his safety.
Busch said that while there will be “serious questions” for senior RCMP officers responsible for Harper’s security, the prime minister’s bodyguards are the “last line of defence.”
Jason MacDonald, the prime minister’s director of communications, said in an email that the PMO does not comment on security-related matters.
The group that organized the protest issued a press release moments after the incident to say the protesters “managed to make their way past police undetected and into the secured Vancouver Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel,” and to denounce the government’s environmental record.
“The latter (protest sign) was a condemnation of the Harper Government’s failing climate policies and a reference to the recent revelation that Conservative minister of the Environment removed a comment about taking climate change seriously from a speech, despite being recommended by Environment Canada,” the statement read.
The release linked to a PostMedia News report last month that said Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq “set aside” a proposal from staffers that she publicly acknowledge scientific evidence that humans are “mostly responsible for climate change.”
The release was signed by Brigette DePape, a Senate page who was fired two years ago for disrupting the government’s throne speech by holding up a “Stop Harper” sign as Gov.-Gen. David Johnston read.
Anjali Appadurai, one of the protest’s organizers, told CTV News Channel Monday afternoon that hundreds more protesters were outside the hotel in a show of “public opposition to the prime minister’s climate policies.”
“When he says it wouldn’t be B.C. without it, he’s really speaking to the public unrest there is around these pipelines,” Appadurai said in an interview from Vancouver. “There’s mass public opposition.”
Appadurai later told Power Play that it was “easy” for the two protesters to get close to Harper.
“It was the right time in the right place and the representatives who were up there just looked the part and it was quite easy for them … to get on the stage and get that audience,” she said.
Harper: Canada must 'diversify' energy markets
Once the session got underway, Harper touched on a number of topics but spent time explaining the need for Canada to expand resource development and diversify its energy markets, but vowed all projects would only be approved “if they meet the highest standards of environmental protection.”
The current standard of exporting 99 per cent of Canada’s energy to the United States “is not really in our interest,” Harper said, and reiterated the government’s desire to expand energy markets in Asia.
“In an era where there’s energy demand all over the world, and the energy industry has been the engine of much of Canada’s economic growth and at a time when American demand for energy will fall in the near term, without a doubt it’s in the country’s interest to diversify our markets,” the prime minister said.
Harper would not speak specifically about the Northern Gateway pipeline project, which a National Energy Board panel recommended go ahead, but with more than 200 conditions, in a report released last month.
However, he said the government will follow the review process “and will take appropriate decisions” by following “the best scientific and expert advice available to us.”
“We want to make sure that these kinds of projects are not just economically viable and give us lots of economic prosperity, we want to make sure that they are environmentally safe,” Harper said. He added that environmental safeguards will include ensuring there are “adequate” response mechanisms to spills and other potential disasters.
The project approval process will also include taking the appropriate steps for negotiating with First Nations communities on treaty rights and other issues, he said. However, “I would hope that in the longer term, the lens we can look through this by is really the one of economic opportunity.
“We have for the first time in Canadian history the prospect of significant economic development, resource development…in regions where aboriginal people are often the dominant populations and where there have been no similar large-scale economic opportunities,” Harper said.
“If handled correctly, this is an unprecedented opportunity for aboriginal people and their communities to join the mainstream of the Canadian economy, without which we won’t make progress on all of the other things, the social issues, that we need to make progress on in those communities.”
He said the federal government will make the necessary investments in skills training and business development that will “ultimately develop the kind of both human and physical capital that will allow for people to participate in similar projects across the country.”
Meanwhile, on the recently concluded free trade deal with the European Union, Harper said his hope is the agreement “is the beginning of even bigger things to come.
“But it was the essential step,” he said. “Essentially breaking out of a trade pattern that was just North America-focused was really critical for this country.”