KINSELLA: Kinda sort of defending Justin Trudeau

Security issue forced Prime Minister’s late arrival on Remembrance Day

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We come not to bury Justin Trudeau, nor to praise him.

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But we do wish to defend him. Sort of.

Okay, okay, put down your torches and pitchforks. There’s no need to chase me out of the Sun’s newsroom (yet). But hear me out.

As every reader of this newspaper knows, Remembrance Day is a very important day. It is the day we pay tribute to the sacrifice of men and women who went to war when Canada called.

It is a day that recalls the hundreds of thousands of Canadians killed in wartime — 67,000 in the First World War, 45,000 in the second World War, and the 1,000 killed in Korea, Bosnia and Afghanistan. With many, many more grievously wounded on the battlefield.

This Remembrance Day, I attended a small ceremony on Main Street in Picton, Ontario. I had the ringer on my cellphone off, but mid-ceremony, it started buzzing like crazy. Later on, I looked at it.

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Partisans on social media — Twitter and Facebook, mostly — were going wild. They were in a spit-flecked fury about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Governor-General Mary Simon.

Here’s what had them upset: Trudeau and Simon arrived late. Trudeau got to Ottawa’s National War memorial just before 11 a.m. And Simon actually arrived — and was therefore announced — during the period when there was supposed to be silence.

Given that both live just a few minutes up Sussex Dr. — and given that both have armed motorcades to ferry them around — it was easy to understand why people were upset.

The mainstream media noticed, too. The stately Globe and Mail reported that the Prime Minister, the Governor General and the Silver Cross Mother “arrived behind schedule” — if that isn’t a Globe-y way to say “late,” I don’t know what is — and others noticed, too.

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Hill reporter Kristy Kirkup tweeted this: “The Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa was about 10 minutes behind schedule this morning, according to a timeline provided by the Legion. Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Governor-General Mary Simon arrived behind schedule. We don’t have word as to why.”

Governor General Mary Simon attends a ceremony at the National War Memorial on Remembrance Day in Ottawa, Nov. 11, 2021.
Governor General Mary Simon attends a ceremony at the National War Memorial on Remembrance Day in Ottawa, Nov. 11, 2021. Photo by PATRICK DOYLE /REUTERS

The internet didn’t wait for why. It went bananas.

Said one, echoing many: “Disrespectful! But, what else would you expect from Trudeau.”

Another: “Clearly has no respect for Canadians. This PM is an abomination of a leader. An overgrown child riding on his daddy’s coattails. Makes me sick.”

And yet another: “That’s disgraceful. There’s no excuse whatsoever!!”

Except, there was.

First off, protocol dictates the Governor General can’t arrive until the Prime Minister does. That’s how it’s been in Ottawa for a Century, give or take, under Liberal and Conservative governments.

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But most importantly, there was a security issue, folks. And, given that we have had significant security issues at the War Memorial in the past — most notably, and most tragically, the murder of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo almost exactly seven years ago — the police had no choice.

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A suspicious package had been found. It looked like a bomb. So, the Explosive Disposal Unit was called in. That unit is made up of RCMP and Ottawa Police Service officers, as well as trained police service dogs, and they do not take their job lightly. They checked out the package. It wasn’t a bomb.

The RCMP later said: “As a precautionary measure, our officers investigated it and the package was cleared a few minutes after.”

The Remembrance Day ceremony continued, albeit a bit late. But not by a lot.

Anonymous Twitter types — you know, the ones who have been dispensing epidemiological advice without a licence throughout the pandemic — were unconvinced. To them, it was a conspiracy, or a deliberate show of disrespect, or both.

But it wasn’t any of those things. It was a reminder, on our most solemn of days, that we shouldn’t always rush to judgment. Because, sometimes, nobody did anything wrong.

Even if that somebody is Justin Trudeau.

— Kinsella was Special Assistant to Jean Chretien

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