On navel-gazing, civil liberties, and Shimon Peres


I hope readers will forgive a post that is definitely narcissistic and possibly an overreaction. Here it goes:

Israeli President Shimon Peres was in town last night. There was a reception at the National Gallery of Canada. I was invited.

While approaching the gallery, I took a call on my cell phone. There was a light rain, so I stopped and stood beneath a statue about 50 metres from the gallery’s front doors. There were several police in the area but no visible security perimeter. Other pedestrians walked by. It’s a moderately busy corner.

After a few minutes, a police officer approached and asked when I would be ending my call. I put my phone away. He asked what I was doing and why I was there. I replied —politely, I think — that I was on public land didn’t have to explain myself to him.

He told me there was an important dinner happening nearby. I told him I knew Peres was at the National Gallery and was on my way there. He asked to see my invitation. I told him I wasn’t obligated to show him anything. He said they had reason to believe I was a “security threat.” I asked him what those reasons were. He said it was because I had taken a ten-metre detour to check out the Peacekeeping Monument before crossing Saint Patrick Street and I was talking on the phone. His voice rose. He said he was “warning” me. I noticed other police watching us. At one point he asked why I wasn’t, or suggested I should be, on “our side.” I realized I was coming close to missing the reception, produced my ticket, and we parted ways.

I understand that there are a lot of people who want to harm Shimon Peres. When he’s in Canada, it’s the job of our police to protect him. I get that, though when all this took place I was well away from the gallery — and from the security guards and metal detector in its entrance foyer. I think police deserve to be treated with courtesy. If I’m committing a crime, I expect to be arrested. If I’m not, however, I expect to be left alone.

Peres, by the way, gave a lovely speech.


On navel-gazing, civil liberties, and Shimon Peres

  1. I’d say your behavior was perfectly reasonable MP. And the policeman was perfectly right to be cautious , suspicious even. I’ve been there, I’ve seen how quickly these things can spiral out of control. It certainly helps to remain polite, but it also helps if the cops are experienced and well trained in the art of being reasonably accomadating. These days it seems both parties frequently aren’t either.

  2. It can always be eye opening for the run of the mill non-minority non-lower class when they realize that police can overstep their authority with impunity and sometimes it can even be directed at you.

    • Police always overstep their authority. Always.

      • I won’t necessarily gainsay you, but since it’s not provable that every single police officer ever has acted improperly, i prefer to think of it as “far far more than the average person realizes”

  3. I’m sorry to hear about your security problems as that shouldn’t have happened. Ever since 9/11 security has gone over the top.

    I’d also like to know if you heard Peres speak, and if so what you thought of him…and how he was received.

    Personally I’d like him to be made an honourary citizen of Canada.

  4. Just be glad you don’t live in Israel, then.