The leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves-François Blanchet, believes that the attempts to “citizen arrest” of elected officials and members of the media made by an individual near the federal Parliament deserve that the security of parliamentarians be enhanced. And to do this, Blanchet believes it is time for federal ministers and party leaders to have a bodyguard. But the leader of the Bloc is standing apart on this issue for now.
Videos of a man trying to “arrest” NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Radio-Canada reporter Daniel Thibeault – believing it to be Bloc Québécois MP Mario Beaulieu – circulated on the media last week social. The reactions there were strong. Because Mr. Singh and Mr. Thibeault were arrested and chased for a few minutes in the streets of Ottawa near the parliamentary buildings.
Asked to react to these incidents, Yves-François Blanchet observed Monday that in Quebec the leaders of political formations and the ministers have a bodyguard (who is also often their driver). This is not the case in Ottawa.
“I think this is a reflection that must be undertaken, even if sometimes it is a little intrusive in the lives of the people who are concerned,” commented the Bloc leader. “We cannot pretend that the risks and threats do not exist. We receive them daily. We make more or less of it. We don’t necessarily make them public. But we all receive threats on a daily basis and you never know which of the weirdos will take action. “
The Liberal government declined to comment. Government Whip Mark Holland argued on Twitter Saturday that “what happened to Mr. Singh is unacceptable” and reported asking the Board of Internal Economy – which sets the rules in the parliamentary precinct – to meet “to discuss the need to strengthen security measures”. But Mr. Holland was not available on Monday to comment on whether to provide a bodyguard for party leaders and ministers.
The Conservative Party did not want to come forward either. “This is not an arbitrary decision that should be made by politicians, but by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police,” said a spokesperson.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who tried to ignore the smirk at the man behind him by calling out to him near Parliament on Friday, was divided on the issue.
Although he himself did not feel worried during the incident, Mr. Singh, a martial arts master, acknowledged that some elected officials might fear for their safety under such circumstances. But he hesitates to demand that everyone be accompanied by a bodyguard to avoid it, because he says he appreciates that elected officials can be approached easily in Canada by citizens who would simply like to dialogue. “I agree with making sure people are safe and not afraid for their safety when doing their jobs. […] But at the same time, I want us to recognize the culture of openness that we have as a democratic country, “he observed.
The Parliamentary Protective Service, which provides security in Parliament and in neighboring areas, admitted on Monday that it had “increased its visibility around the parliamentary precinct” following “recent incidents”. However, the organization declined to say whether it would further enhance security measures.
On the side of the RCMP, we assured to take “all types of threats seriously” and “constantly” adapt the security measures. The federal police, however, also declined to provide further details, including whether they plan to provide all ministers and party leaders with bodyguards.
A growing threat
Currently, the RCMP provides security for the Prime Minister, the Governor General and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In the case of ministers and party leaders, this protection is offered if the situation merits it. This device is therefore offered to all party leaders during an election campaign, but rarely in normal times.
As for ministers, there are certain exceptions. Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna admitted last year that she now uses her own safety device on occasion, after being cursed a few times in the presence of her children when she was environment minister.
The RCMP reported this summer that they compiled 130 threats against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ministers in the first six months of 2020 – a 30% increase from the same date last year .
In July, a man forced his way into the premises of Rideau Hall, where the Prime Minister and his family are staying, smashing the gates with his truck. He has since been charged with 22 counts, including carrying firearms for dangerous intent and uttering threats.
The man who arrested Jagmeet Singh and journalist Daniel Thibeault last week bragged about trying to “citizen arrest” Justin Trudeau seven times. He notably tried the blow in front of Rideau Hall last July. This man, Brian Kigger, is a follower of conspiracy theories and associated with the group The Canadian Revolution, which notably opposes the wearing of masks and other directives imposed by the government to counter COVID-19.
With Hélène Buzzetti