‘I complied unequivocally’

by Aaron Wherry

For those needing closure, the Veterans Affairs Minister issues the following statement.

On February 23 I was at the Ottawa airport and a bottle of alcohol was confiscated from me because it exceeded the 100 ml limit.

Since I had to leave the bottle behind, I asked that it be destroyed.

At no point did I request preferential treatment; it’s not in my nature.

Granted, I was definitely upset at what happened, and I apologize to those I could have offended.

That being said, the rule is clear.

The officers applied the rule.

And I complied unequivocally.




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‘I complied unequivocally’

  1. Since I had to leave the bottle behind, I asked that it be destroyed.

    This MAY mean: "Oh, dear, so sorry, here, take it and destroy it with all the other confiscated items."

    Or it MAY mean: "You take this %^&*%^(^& and shove it up your *&%$&*%&^% ^&*^ until it &^%$%-ing explodes!"

    • Heh. But I believe we've got folks at the airport confirming that he "did not pull a Helena" so remained reasonably polite throughout. Personally, I don't blame him for wanting to see it destroyed. After all, you can't help but think as you walk away that you just bought a bunch of airport security folks happy hour.

      • Yup. I'm going to guess it was a rather expensive bottle of hooch he had to trash at security too, otherwise, he probably wouldn't have much cared.

        I have an ounce of sympathy for people who have to leave >100mL items behind at security. I've done it a couple of times, when in my haste to pack, I forgot what 100mL looked like. Oops.

        People who chuck their shoes…notsomuch.

        • Hah, ounce of sympathy, good one!

          Of course, for metric folks that's about 28 ml of sympathy.

      • Actually, the "he didn't pull a Helena" quote came from an anonymous "senior government official", presumably from the PMO. Not anyone at the airport.

        The folks at the airport told CTV it was so heated they nearly called the cops, something Blackburn and co. are obviously playing down. Their account appear to diverge somewhat, to say the least.

        As an aside, interesting to see "senior government official" take shots at one of their own ministers (Guergis) to defend another. Interesting, and telling.

      • I too can see his logic, but as a passenger is he entitled to it under the rules he himself wrote? If not, his hissy fit was probably unjustified.

      • But they still thought about calling the cops?

        • "Thinking about calling the cops", means they thought about it, and realized that it was OBVIOUSLY not necessary.

          • Is that a sarcastic OBVIOUSLY?

  2. He may not have requested preferential treatment, but he obviously expected preferential treatment. Otherwise, why show up with the bottle in tow in the first place? Are we to believe that a Minister of the Crown is so out-of-touch with airport regulations that he didn't know about the rule?

    • It is possible to forget such things. Sounds dumb, but it happens. You can be completely cognizant of airport liquids restrictions and still pack stuff in your carry on, in your haste, that you don't register as being in contravention of those exact guidelines.

      You just deal with it by letting the security guys have it. Asking them to "destroy" your personal property that they are required to withold from you isn't an unreasonable request.

  3. What joke. this is absurb how can they behave like that?

  4. Airport security is an unmitigated charade anyway. I wouldn't trust a man who doesn't get pissed off at the ridiculous requests for confiscation of sealed bottles of water and nailclippers. Do you expect everybody to act as docile sheep going through this theatre they pretend is protecting us from terrorism?

    • The government does, Adrian. The government makes these ridiculous rules. The government of which Mr. Blackburn is a senior member. If he doesn't like the rules (I don't either, btw) he should go to the next cabinet meeting and demand they be changed. In the mean time, perhaps Guergis, Blackburn and the rest could abide by the rules which they've created and force the rest of us common folk to suffer through daily.

      • In fact, he's one of the Ministers most in charge of those rules, right?

        • Not really, he's Minister of Veterans Affairs and sec/state agriculure. John Baird in transport has airport security. Also, Vic Toews in public safety.

          • Why don't you check into Blackburn's background Jeff? Maybe you can get the media to join you in another unsubstantiated witch hunt on his education credentials, like you did with Guergis.

      • But Jeff, the minister did comply with the rules. He did leave the bottle there, did he not? As far as I know, he had merely asked if airline (or airport staff) could keep it on board for him. BTW, this is done in many circumstances when a package does not fit in a suitcase. I have done it myself, and the airport attendents and airline staff were more than helpful in that regard.

        • You have been able to get airport attendants and airline staff to get your bottle of alcohol through to the destination airport?

          • no,not alcohol,but glass ware,paintings, an big old clock once. I just don't see what this fuss is all about

          • You are being a little disingenuous when you equate successful efforts to get glassware, paintings and a clock through to the destination with Blackburn's efforts to get a bottle of alcohol on board.

          • Of course I was being a little disingenuous. About as disingenuous as the MSM has been in reporting Blackburn's incident.

          • I see…..

            You are, of course, free to set a higher standard for yourself. Then, if nothing else, you can't be accused of hypocritical behaviour when you call out the MSM for their shoddiness.

          • But how to get rid of the MSM shoddiness??? I am willing to set higher standards for myself, and believe me, I do agree that lowering one's own standard to make a point is not my preferred modus operandus.

            But tell me, how do we get rid of MSM shoddiness and uncalled for biases ongoing?

          • Not ignoring you….we all have lives to live away from ID, AND your question required some pondering.

            I will reiterate my suggestion that we can at least try to demonstrate the types of behaviours that we expect. This may not have a direct, immediate effect, since it seems very doubtful to me that the macleans contributors read each and every comment that gets posted, and those that they do read probably get a quick read. Influencing our fellow commenters is a bit less direct, but could have some results.

            As well, if you come across examples that you believe are particularly troubling, I believe that there are other methods of providing feedback to macleans available. Those other methods are going to require more effort on your part, but I think that you stand a better chance of receiving a reply.

            Glad that you will join me in trying to not lower our own standards.

            Good luck!!

  5. For me, the best part about this story is how he acted like alot of people would under similar circumstances and it's presented like it's some sort of scandal or behaviour unbecoming of a minister. I watched the clip on CTV last night and the only thought I had other than why was this the lead story was how nice it was to know that at least one of our politicians is a normal, human being.

    • I don't know if it's a "scandal" or "behaviour unbecoming of a minister" exactly, but I do think that it's noteworthy that in 2010 there's a Minister of the Crown who doesn't seem to know that you can't take a bottle of tequila on an airplane with you.

      • You CAN take a bottle of tequila on the plane with you. You just have to buy it at the duty free after you go through security.

        • I could be wrong, but every time I've purchased stuff like alcohol at a duty free store before flying they took my flight information and THEY (I don't know who, but someone other than me) brought the bottle on to the plane, and gave it to me after I boarded in exchange for my "ticket"/receipt. I guess maybe it's different at different airports though, or maybe on a airline to airline basis, but I've never personally actually carried a bottle of alcohol on to a plane with me after buying it at a duty free store.

        • Yes, that is correct. But even then you cannot take possession of the bottle until you are boarding the plane. And in that sense I do not see why the minister's bottle could not have been processed in the same way as is done with duty free articles: they could have handed it over to hiim after going through the boarding process.Common sense is missing here and perhaps not on the part of the Minister

          • I'm not sure it makes sense to allow someone to bring their own bottle and then pass it to them when they board. It's still their own bottle that they brought with them from God knows where after doing God knows what to it.

            The point about the duty free bottle is that they know it's going straight from the duty free shop in the airport on to the plane and no one who doesn't work for the airport is touching it in between (at least, that's always been my understanding). It's not some random bottle brought in from outside the airport by a private citizen. Filling a bottle of Tequila with liquid explosives and then re-sealing the top is one thing, filling a bottle of Tequila with liquid explosives and then re-sealing the top, smuggling the bottle in to a liquor shipment to the duty free shop, then going to the duty free shop and making sure you buy the exact bottle you slipped into their supply chain is, (at least slightly) more complicated.

          • fair point

  6. I don't get it. If even cabinet ministers realize that a tonne of these rules are dumb why don't they do something about it?

  7. Am I the only one wondering if he was flying to Hamilton?

  8. I'm really curious about this incident now. On the one hand, you've got government sources saying "he didn't pull a Helena" and the Minister himself saying "I complied unequivocally" and on the other hand you have people at the airport saying that things got so heated that security considered calling the police to deal with the Minister.

    Either way, I'm glad that "to pull a Helena" has entered the lexicon.

  9. Yeah…wouldn't it be nice if CTV felt they had to actually publish who it was that was making these allegations, coming forward almost a month after the incident?

    Nah, it'll never happen…

    • yeah, I agree, why bother digging up this silly news item, months after it happened. And really, I would ask them to dump the alcohol too. A very reasonable request.

    • It could happen. I imagine it'll happen right about the time they publish the name of the "senior government official" who said, on condition of anonymity, that this whole incident was no big deal and that the Minister "didn't pull a Helena".

      • Well it's pretty predictable what any senior government official is going to say, other than the shot at Guergis I guess.

        But doesn't it strike you the least bit odd that someone would just come forward to report this incident, that is barely even a controversy, almost a month after it happened, unless they had an underlying reason to want to play "gotcha"? I'd certainly like to know the motivation for this person coming forward. What evidence is there that the police "almost had to be called"? Says who? Was this another passenger? The security guard that was deprived of a free bottle of tequila? A Liberal MP who happened to be on the same plane or in the vicinity and wanted to add fuel to the Guergis fire?

        Any news organization that cares about its reputation should be coming forth with this, because it strikes me as being extremely unlikely that this story is coming forward by chance.

        • Blackburn isn't exactly a household name…who would have even recognized him?

          Of course, there's another possibility right there. You're sitting at home, you're watching T.V., and Blackburn appears, and suddenly you're thinking "That crazy guy I almost had ejected from the airport in February was a CABINET MINISTER?!?!?!"

  10. I'd like to see a referendum on issues like this (excessive airport security). That's the only way the will of the majority, who loathe it, will prevail against the hysterical few. Otherwise it's just the hysterical few against the government, and the hysterical few will always win that confrontation — especially since, as a nation, we always sypathise with whoever's whining loudest.

    • " especially since, as a nation, we always sypathise with whoever's whining loudest. "

      Good observation. That would apply to the prorogation controversy as well, I assume?

      • In this context, to whine is to complain that your own rights have been violated. In prorogation, the Opposition conspicuously (and, to my mind, culpably) did not complain — it was left to those who care about the rule of law to do so.

        May I suggest that a new Canadian who has no knowledge of Westminster constitutional history is not well placed to weigh in about the legitimacy of prorogation?

        • What is your proposed size of allowable tequila bottle so that your rights aren't violated? Mickey? Fifth? 40 pounder? Texas Mickey?

          • Ask me when somebody tries to hijack an airplane with a tequila bottle, as opposed to with the razor-sharp credit cards that are perfectly equivalent to the 9/11 hijackers' boxcutters and yet are allowed on every single flight by the hundreds.

          • Never been on an airplane when someone acts unruly after consuming too much liquor and refuses to sit down for landing, or gets aggressive when he/she is cut off?

            Do you ever smuggle your own soft drinks and popcorn into the discount movie theatre? The ticket prices are low because they make their money on the concession booth sales.

            Not all rules/restrictions are 9/11 based.

          • Not that I think it's a totally rational rule, but the point isn't that someone's going to try to hijack a plane with a bottle of tequila, is it? The point, I think, is that someone could try to BLOW UP a plane, using a bottle of "tequila" that isn't really tequila.

            Again, that doesn't necessarily make the restrictions rational, but I for one am much more concerned, in 2010, about someone getting a bottle of liquid explosives on the plane than I am about someone getting box cutters on the plane. After 9/11, I think trying to take a plane hostage with a bladed weapon is a pretty dangerous proposition (for the terrorists). Keep your nail files. If you try to get in to the pilot's cabin with a nail file or a pocket knife, I'll be one of a dozen or so passengers trying to beat you to death. If, on the other hand, you manage to get a liquor bottle full of liquid explosives on to the plane, I'm less confident in our collective ability to stop you from killing us all.

          • Good points all 'round, LKO. A few pessimistic notes:

            I'd say that if the terrorists were simply concerned with killing people, there are better ways to do that than by hijacking an airplane. A Timothy McVeigh fertiliser bomb, for instance, appealed to the Toronto cell. What terrorists want is drama, either a devastating explosion (like you get from using a hijacked plane's fuel tanks as a cruise missile) or a hostage crisis, or what have you. Something Geraldo can cover.

            Also, the volume restriction makes no sense. If you bring a few 100ml bottles, you could try combining them into one 500ml bottle, of a size that could take the plane down.

            Finally, there is the threat of plastic explosive, as with the shoe bomber and the undie bomber. The only defense against that is getting all the passengers to strip naked before boarding the plane. As it is, perhaps we are safe against mentally slow terrorists like the shoe bomber and the undie bomber, i.e. guys who are too stupid to figure out how to carry through with their attacks, or who panic. But there is no safety against well-planned, semi-professional attacks like 9/11. We are very fortunate that a terrorist of the calibre of Mohammed Atta has not come forward. It seems that Al-Qaeda's chief weakness is a lack of talent, especially given that in suicide attacks it's all one-off talent.

            The bottom line seems to me to be that we could eliminate security checks completely and flying would still be safer than driving.

          • I certainly agree that the restrictions are a bit irrational, and of very dubious effect. I also agree that there are probably better ways for terrorists to kill a bunch of people than blowing up a plane, though I think perhaps you underestimate the "drama" factor of terrorists blowing a plane out of the sky (especially if they could do it with some frequency, even for a short period, though I think even a single plane blowing up would get people's attention pdq). In some ways, I think that the fact that there are easier ways to attack is part of the point. It's drives home an "if you're not safe on a plane after all that screening, how can you think you're safe anywhere" message.

            I also wonder to what extent, annoying as they are, our current security procedures make people FEEL safer. Even a false sense of security is of some benefit, I think. Not that people would stop flying or anything, but (TOTALLY hypothetically) if we had no security at all, and a plane blowing up every month, statistically it'd probably still be safer than driving, but it wouldn't shock me if air travel went down.

          • Very good points, LKO. Consider me convinced.

          • Yes, Lord K, even though the re-occurance of 911-type incident is statistically insignificant, it is politically expedient (and a corporate responsibility) to appease/instill confidence in the minds of voter/consumers.

            God, to be in the security business right now…it makes you wonder if those in the business have anything to do with this hyper-paranoia, or even the acts themselves. I'm not a 'Truther', but occassionally conspiracy thoughts cross my suspicious mind. Rumsfeld's and Cheney's indirect connections to the big security company's boards/stocks always come to mind.

        • Pfff, at least I am allowed to speak up since I am familiar and have knowlegde of Westminster constitutional history, because you see, I am 100% certain that the right to be granted prorogation is with the Prime Minister.

          That a particular group did not like the fact that PM Harper took this right as indeed to belong to his term in office, is another matter. You see, nowhere in our Westminster constitutional history does it say that a loud whining voice of the masses governs this country.

          Indeed, the opposition parties had every right to deem the act of prorogation uncalled for, but that is ultimately an opinion, nothing more, nothing less. That is what the opposition is there for, to voice its opppinion loud and clear. But because they were loud and clear does not mean they found themselves to be on the side of the law simultaneously. Far from it: the law still states that the PM of Canada has the right to be granted prorogation.

          • Everywhere in our Westminster constitutional history it says that the Government is accountable to Parliament, however.

            Perhaps you can explain how the Government can be held accountable to Parliament when the Government can simply demand that Parliament be suspended whenever the Government pleases.

            This was never an issue before because it never crossed any Prime Minister's mind, except Sir John A.'s when he was desperate to avoid the apocalyptic Pacific Scandal, to use prorogation to avoid accountability.

          • Jack, I'm not disagreeing with you that our current system is flawed, but you are wrong in stating that prorogation has only been "abused" by Harper. That is a matter of opinon,nothing more, nothing less. Prime Ministers of the past have used it and have used it more than once.

            But if you, and so many others, are concerned of too much power in the hands of the PM or PMO then why, when Harper suggests Senate change, particularly change in Senate appointments, Parliament votes his proposals down. But really, much more PM powers are exercised within Senate appointments then within the act of prorogation itself. Yet, no mass demonstration, no national outcry over that one. Simply picking and choosing at one's convenience doesn't cut it for me.

  11. Interesting, I've never had that experience with Air Canada (or a few other StarAlliance planes) in any Canadian airport.

    I did have a flight attendant once tell me I would have to finish my near-full bottle of vitamin watter that I purchased at the departure gate from a vending machine before I got on the plane. A request her pilot promptly withdrew.

  12. Yeah, but what if Al-Quaeda learned our important secrets of disposing of expensive liquor because a government Minister insisted that the disposal happen in front of him? WHAT IF LIVES WERE LOST, MR. MINISTER!!!

  13. At least the movie theatres have the decency not to justify their policy as anti-terrorism. And they don't put you in jail, or rob you of a $1000 ticket, if you answer back to the power-tripping loser who searches you.

    • And they won't destroy your smuggled popcorn in front of you. I totally think they eat it themselves.

      • Or resell it. Ever since the popcorn drought, prices are sky-high.

  14. The issue here is not whether the current security measures are appropriate. They are ridiculous and do little to keep airlines secure. However, they are the rules that are in place and all of us have to comply or face consequences. The minister obviously expected preferential treatment or why bring the bottle in the first place. Furthermore, he demanded the bottle be emptied in front of him. Not exactly standard procedure!

  15. Would it be nitpicky to point out that when Harper was asked about this, he talked about 'the people who work for me' – HIM?… Guess that explains the source of the arrogance.

    • I noted that as well. It does reinforce the image of the government being a one man show.

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