APTN National News
The RCMP’s VIP unit was concerned demonstrators could embarrass Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt during a national roundtable on murdered and missing Indigenous women which was held in Ottawa at the end of February, internal documents show.
During the Feb. 27 roundtable, the VIP unit protecting Leitch and Valcourt was in contact with the RCMP’s “demo team” which was monitoring about 40 demonstrators who had taken to Parliament Hill for a protest to coincide with the event, the documents show. The VIP unit knew the day before the Hill demonstration planned to move to the Marriott Hotel which was hosting the event, according to the censored RCMP supplementary reports.
“[Censored] ongoing demonstrations on Parliament Hill could potentially move to the Marriott Hotel, causing disruption and/or embarrassment,” said one report following a Feb. 26 meeting between the RCMP and Kristen Carthew, a senior policy adviser with Aboriginal Affairs involved in organization the event. “[Censored] demonstrators intended to move their protest to the Marriott Aboriginal event. Note that [censored] Ottawa police officers in uniform would also be present.”
It’s unclear how the RCMP learned that the protest planned to move to the Marriott. A report from the day before noted there was no “open source” information on the protest.
“Protests are expected but no information was found on dates and time through open source,” said the Feb. 25 report.
The protest did move to the Marriott Hotel, but no incidents were reported.
Portions of the documents were censored under sections in the Access to Information Act that allow the withholding of information on law enforcement and ongoing investigation grounds. The sections cover information that “would reveal the identity of a confidential source of information.”
The Feb. 27 roundtable was chaired by Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod and also attended by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger along with the families of the murdered and missing and Indigenous leaders.
APTN requested the RCMP documents to determine what Leitch meant when she told Wynne she couldn’t join the families, premiers and First Nation leaders for a joint press conference at the Marriott Hotel because of the RCMP.
Leitch and Valcourt held a separate press conference at the Delta Hotel across the street, leading to questions from journalists on whether the move was security-related.
According to a recording of the closed-door meeting obtained by APTN, Wynne asked the federal ministers to join the rest of the group at the press conference. Leitch responded saying she couldn’t because she was “in the hands of the RCMP.”
Yet, according to the documents, the RCMP had nothing to do with the decision. Leitch’s office informed the RCMP three days before the event that the minister would be holding a separate press conference at the Delta.
“At 3:30 both ministers will make their way to the Delta Hotel where they will hold a press conference,” said a Feb. 24 email from Leitch’s director of communications Andrew McGrath to the RCMP.
McGrath’s email was in response to an RCMP request for information on the planned roundtable.
Leitch’s office did not return a request for comment.
Two military CH-146 Griffon helicopters flew over Parliament Hill during the demonstration that day. A Canadian Forces spokesperson said the helicopters were simply showing foreign military students from allied countries a view of the Hill.