There was face painting, a petting zoo, the RCMP’s world-renowned Musical Ride, and an armed takedown demo complete with flash bangs and assault rifles.
The national police agency’s Sunset Ceremonies performed over the weekend in Ottawa is raising a few eyebrows for a short performance by the force’s emergency response team (ERT).
The four-minute spot in the evening show featured police officers in combat fatigues, weapons at the ready, pulling a suspect out of a vehicle window. Another team then arrives, guns drawn, to arrest a second suspect.
“The RCMP offers a career like no other,” says the announcer. “If you want to make a difference in your community and your country, this can be the career for you.”
The four-day ceremonies — Sunday was cancelled due to weather — are an annual event in Ottawa.
Supt. Leslie Cook, the officer in charge of the ride, describes it in a statement as a “family friendly event.”
Not everyone saw it that way.
A video of the Saturday performance drew some angry comments on YouTube. In the highly charged political atmosphere ahead of a fall federal election, it was Prime Minister Stephen Harper who took the brunt of blame for the militaristic display.
“Thanks Harper, this is super easy and fun to explain to children,” ElectricPhase wrote.
“This is a disgusting display to have in front of children. Militarized police performing for entertainment is what happens in North Korea… not Canada,” wrote a user identified as Israfil Smith.
“Wow, fascism rising under @pmHarper disgusting, and more than a little bit pathetic,” added user jph wacheski.
But a spokesman for the RCMP says the show highlights many different sections of the force.
“There are kiosks on site to showcase various units such as forensic identification services, missing children, counterfeit section, youth crime prevention, as well as an explanation of the RCMP Honour Roll,” RCMP spokesman Sgt. Harold Pfleiderer tells Yahoo Canada News.
The part of the show in question is the ERT demonstration, which took place on two of the nights.
It is not part of the Musical Ride performance anywhere but at the Sunset Ceremonies in Ottawa, Pfleiderer says, and it is not new.
The ERT demonstration was approximately four minutes of a show that lasted two hours, he points out.
“ERT has been part of the Sunset Ceremonies in Ottawa for approximately 10 years,” he says. “It is to show the public an example of the RCMP’s operational response capability in its role as Canada’s national police.”