Trudeau’s Bulletproof Vest: Tactical, Moral, Political Questions — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wore a bulletproof vest in response to an unspecified threat of attack at an election-campaign rally yesterday near Toronto, according to media photos and reports citing unnamed sources.

It’s important to protect innocent life. The situation and the response raise questions about tactics, morals, politics and journalism.

Photo by Stephane Mahe of Reuters published by CBC News on 12 Oct. 2019.

What Happened

  • Trudeau, the Liberal Party leader seeking re-election on Oct. 21, came on stage 90 minutes late at the rally with 2,000 Liberal supporters in Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto.
  • Trudeau’s wife canceled her participation.
  • Photos show bulges under Trudeau’s shirt and suit in what look consistent with a soft vest or hard armour in front, and possibly a hard plate in back. (Update Oct. 14: CBC News reported unidentified sources saying it was soft body armour.)
  • None of the event staff, media or supporters was alerted to the risk of attack or how to protect themselves.
  • Skepticism about the alleged threat and the response arose almost immediately.

No Comment by Liberals, RCMP contacted the Ottawa-based Liberal Party and Royal Canadian Mounted Police to ask about the alleged threat and the tactical response.

  • “We do not comment on any matters relating to the PM’s security,” said Eleanore Catenaro, a spokeswoman for the Liberals.
  • “Unfortunately the RCMP does not comment on security measures afforded to the Prime Minister,” said Stephanie Dumoulin, a spokeswoman for the RCMP, which provides protection service to the prime minister.

Tactical Questions

  • Why isn’t Trudeau’s head worth protecting?
  • Why isn’t the rest of Trudeau worth protecting? If his security team was concerned about an attack with bullets, explosives, blades, bats or fists, soft vests and hard plates provide limited protection only for a few organs. They aren’t magic shields. They don’t stop everything. Most of the target was available.
  • Why aren’t campaign and event staff worth protecting?
  • Why aren’t the event attendees worth protecting?
  • Why wasn’t the event canceled and the room evacuated?

Moral Questions

  • Why do some people believe politicians, including government leaders, deserve more protection than non-politicians?
  • Why do some people believe it’s right for political leaders to benefit from armed protection, while it’s wrong for the rest of us to seek to protect ourselves?
  • What is the moral legitimacy of a political leader benefiting from armed protection paid for by taxpayers, while he simultaneously campaigns to imprison hundreds of thousands of men and women unless we surrender our firearms?

Political Questions

  • Speculation emerged almost immediately that the threat and the response were campaign theatrics.
  • This is unfortunate if the threat was real, not only for underestimating a possible risk, but also because trust in politicians and mass media has sunk so low.
  • Nobody has provided any evidence of a threat. Nobody has said on the record that there was a threat.
  • Politicians around the world have destroyed their credibility by faking risks and lying to justify their policies.
  • A pillar of Trudeau’s campaign is his plan for mass incarceration, expulsions or gun confiscations targeting hundreds of thousands of hunters and sport shooters.
  • A stunt alleging an unspecified threat is hard to beat for political messaging.
  • “… Liberals will bring in the toughest gun-control laws that Canada has ever had,” Trudeau told yesterday’s rally.
  • Why do we have people living free in our communities who want to hurt or kill us?
  • Why is the government failing to protect us?
  • Why is the government making it illegal or impossible for us to protect ourselves?

Journalism Questions

  • Several media cited anonymous sources mentioning a security threat. Anonymous sourcing is generally restricted to sensitive matters where revealing the speaker’s identity could unjustly harm them, as with whistleblowers or political dissidents.
  • What is the credibility of a source who hides their identity?
  • Why should we trust media who aren’t transparent about their sources of information?
  • There’s nothing sensitive about going on the record to say: “We believe there was a threat,” said Real Person at Real Organization.
  • Why give the mystery sources a free pass?

Overall Question

  • Why isn’t the alleged threat and the response a top news story?
    • If the attack threat is real, the attackers are still at large, and that’s dangerous for safety. It means some person or group is threatening the prime minister and the political stability of Canada.
    • If the attack threat was considered real and after further investigation is no longer considered serious, that’s relevant information, and still raises questions about the response.
    • If the attack threat was fake and the federal police were part of the hoax, that’s dangerous for democracy. The mere thought of this is uncomfortable.
  • It’s a big story either way, so which is it? What else do we need to know?

Wernick Teaser

  • “I’m worried that somebody is going to be shot in this country this year during the political campaign,” Michael Wernick, the Clerk of the Privy Council at the time, told a House of Commons committee on Feb. 21.
  • Source: Text, Video