Defence show cancelled over protests; Vigil participants say PCO edict scuttled event, not threat of civil disobedience


By David Pugliese

The Ottawa Citizen


Thursday, September 25, 2008


 The threat of civil disobedience by protesters at a defence trade show scheduled for next week in Ottawa was the reason for the event being shut down, according to one of its organizers.


But others who planned to take part in the two-day event at Lansdowne Park blame a Privy Council Office edict that prevented senior military officers and Defence Department officials from taking part in various aspects of Secure Canada 2008 because of the federal election.


And one of the co-ordinators of a disarmament group opposed to Secure Canada 2008 says the trade show’s officials are using the peace protesters as scapegoats.


“I think they’re totally exaggerating any kind of threat that we posed,” said Richard Sanders of the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade. “Our main thing was a candlelight peace vigil. That doesn’t seem too threatening.”


Mr. Sanders said seniors’ activist group the Raging Grannies was also planning to set up a peace garden outside Lansdowne Park as well as walk back and forth across Bank Street to slow traffic.


But Rick Tachuk of Secure Canada 2008 said Ottawa police warned exhibit organizers there could be incidents of civil disobedience outside the trade show.


“We had been notified by the … Ottawa police that they had picked up intelligence on a potential security threat on the event and (they) brought this to our attention,” he explained. “This came as a total shock to us.”


Mr. Tachuk said the cost of providing security around Lansdowne Park would have been prohibitive. He declined to discuss the cost of security, but did add that event organizers were responsible for paying it. “We had a security budget, but this far, far surpassed any reasonable expectation of what would be required,” he added.


A defence industry official said the price tag was more than $80,000.


But officials with Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Canada, hosts of one of three events taking place under the Secure Canada umbrella, blamed the cancellation of the association’s event on a recently issued government decree. “This cancellation relates to the federal election currently under way and restrictions placed on senior government officials participating in public conferences,” a press release said.


Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk was to have delivered the keynote address at the AFCEA Canada event, and other officers were making presentations as well.


But the Privy Council Office recently launched an unprecedented clampdown on government business during the federal election, slowing the workings of the bureaucracy to a crawl in some areas.


Meetings between bureaucrats and everyone from consumer advocacy groups to industry representatives have been cancelled out of concern such gatherings may taint the outcome of the federal election. The PCO edict has also put a temporary halt to some Canadian Forces equipment projects and has required military officers and public servants to withdraw from long-planned defence conferences.


Secure Canada 2008 was to have combined three industry events into one: Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Canada’s conference, a conference for unmanned aerial vehicles and the Secure Canada trade exhibit. Mr. Tachuk said while the conferences were running into problems because military officers were no longer available to speak, the trade show portion could have proceeded if not for the excessive security costs.


Mr. Tachuk said the trade show had been run at the Congress Centre and Ottawa hotels previously and there were no protests. He said the show does not exhibit weapon systems, but is concentrated more on equipment for domestic security and disaster response.


But Mr. Sanders questioned that, noting that one exhibitor sells equipment, including silencers and other gear, for special forces teams.


He said it appears the PCO clampdown is to blame for the cancellation of Secure Canada 2008, but that the defence industry is intent on blaming protesters. He noted that the groups have held peaceful protests previously and applied for and received a permit from the City of Ottawa to hold their event outside Lansdowne Park.


Mr. Sanders acknowledged that opposition to the Secure Canada show was late in getting starting and, as a result, the numbers of those involved were not that great.


“We didn’t feel we had the resources or enough people to organize a rally,” he said, adding that was the reason the focus was on a candlelight vigil.


 For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:






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