The RCMP ordered a plane sporting a critical message about Prime Minister Stephen Harper to land at the Rockcliffe Airport Saturday, the Public Service Alliance of Canada said Monday.
The RCMP says officers made a mistake and thought the plane was flying in the restricted zone of Parliament Hill. NAV Canada confirmed Monday the plane did not stray into the restricted area.
RCMP A Division spokesperson Cpl. Lucie Shorey initially denied the federal police force ordered the plane down, but she later contacted Metro saying new information had come to light.
“The RCMP is mandated with protection of Parliament Hill. The plane was perceived to be flying in the restricted airspace,” she said. “As such, the RCMP requested the plane to land and we undertook questioning of the pilot involved to determine if there was any threat. It was deemed there was not a threat.”
In a press release sent from the union — which represents more than 170,000 workers in the federal public service — a spokesperson said the banner attached to the plane read “StephenHarperNousDeteste.ca,” which translates
to “StephenHarperHatesUs.ca” in English.
The banner had been flown over Montreal and other Quebec communities over the past two weeks, the release said, as part of the union’s “We are all affected campaign.”
“Had the RCMP been concerned about the plane’s potential route, it could have easily communicated with the pilot via radio and sought clarification rather than ordering it back down to the airport,” the release said.
“The PSAC believes that the RCMP terminated the flight for political reasons due to the banner, without taking the proper steps to adequately assess the situation.”
Asked about public perception the incident was politically-motivated censorship, Shorey said the grounding of the plane had nothing to do with the banner it was flying.