APTN National News
A Canadian Forces spokesperson says the two military helicopters which flew over downtown Ottawa last Friday had nothing to do with a protest on Parliament Hill or the roundtable on murdered and missing Indigenous women held at a hotel a few blocks away.
The two CH-146 Griffon helicopters appeared over Parliament Hill during a protest held to coincide with the roundtable held at the Marriott Hotel. The helicopters flew in from bases in Petawawa, Ont., and St-Hubert, Que.
Capt. Jean-Francois Lambert, spokesperson for the Canadian Forces, said the appearance of the two military helicopters over Parliament Hill and downtown Ottawa was part of a pre-planned “familiarization” flight for foreign students attending the Canadian Forces College Joint Command and Staff Program.
Lambert said the RCMP was told about the flights in advance because the airspace over Parliament Hill is restricted.
“There are no connections with any other events, meetings (or) roundtable discussions happening in Ottawa on that day,” said Lambert.
Lambert said the helicopter flights were part of a tour given to foreign students from allied countries attending the college so they get a bird’s eye view of Parliament Hill and the Ottawa River which separates Ontario and Quebec.
“We make sure they understand better what Canada is by showing them who we are and the familiarization flight is a chance to see Canada from there,” he said.
The timing of the flights raised suspicion among some demonstrators who said the noise from the helicopters drowned out their speeches.
An RCMP officer liaising with protesters throughout Friday also said the military helicopter flights were not connected to the day’s events.
There was a high level of police security at the hotel where four premiers and two federal cabinet ministers attended the meeting with the families of the missing and murdered and Indigenous leaders.
The RCMP’s security presence was so robust and apparent, reporters asked during a press conference attended by Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt whether the two ministers wer facing threats.
According to a recording of the roundtable meeting obtained by APTN National News, Leitch hinted security issues were behind the decision to have the federal ministers hold their press conference at the Delta Hotel separately from the premiers, Indigenous leaders and family members of the murdered and missing.
When asked by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne why the federal ministers wouldn’t appear with the rest of the group, Leitch said she was in the “hands of the RCMP.”
Leitch told reporters later that the press conference was held separately to give the families a chance to have their voices heard.