Mounties spent nearly $14M to protect Pope Francis during historic visit
The Mounties have so far spent close to $14 million in security costs to protect Pope Francis during his historic visit to Canada last summer.
One former Mountie suggests that while the cost may seem high, that it is the cost of diplomacy.
The figures were released to CBC News in response to an access to Information request and cover the period of July 24 to 29, when the Pope made stops in Edmonton, Quebec City and Iqaluit.
The visit was hastily arranged after a delegation visited the Vatican a couple months prior, looking to press the Pontiff to apologize for the Catholic Church's role in residential schools.
While on Canadian soil, Pope Francis apologized for members of the Catholic Church who co-operated with Canada's "devastating" policy of Indigenous residential schools.
The visit also included several private meetings with Indigenous peoples, a visit with state officials, several public addresses, a participation in a pilgrimage and two public holy masses, one in Edmonton and one in Quebec City.
It also involved the co-ordination of multiple police agencies, from the municipal level to provincial agencies to the Mounties.
Numbers released through ATIP
The numbers released about the RCMP's role in policing are broken down by province or territory and reveal a total cost, thus far, of $13,829,054:
Alberta | Edmonton, Maskwacis, Lac Ste. Anne
Other incremental pay: $51,487.
Travel expenditures: $2,308,967.
Other expenditures: $5,213,891.
Quebec | Quebec City, Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré
Other incremental pay: $34,201.
Travel expenditures: $1,702,292.
Other expenditures: $331,739.
Nunavut | Iqaluit
Other incremental pay: $388.
Travel expenditures: $124,792.
Other expenditures: $207,279.
The RCMP said the costs around Pope Francis's trip are as of Nov. 22, 2022, and it expects that "additional costs will continue to be processed, potentially until the end of the 2022-23 fiscal year."
"The numbers seem high because anything with millions in it is obviously high, especially for regular people who are just trying to keep their life on the rails," said Chris Mathers, a former RCMP officer who now runs a crime and risk consulting company in Canada, the United States and Central America.
"It begs the question, should we be receiving the individuals?," he said. "[The] reality is, if you want the world to be a better place, you have to have the dialogue and this is what foments dialogue."
Mathers said foreign dignitaries who visit Canada, such as heads of state or government, are internationally protected persons who receive security protection.
"The level of protection is dictated primarily by the threat risk assessment of an individual," said Mathers.
He used U.S. President Joe Biden as an example, saying there are always threats made against the president.
"Some people have a history of threats against them, like the Pope for example," Mathers said, referencing the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981.
"What dictates the level of security are things such as, are there currently any political or social issues which might give cause for concern, that are related to this individual who's visiting."
WATCH | How much security cost for Pope Francis's visit:
Planning and preparation
He outlined that the RCMP are involved in planning travel routes and securing every place that a foreign dignitary will visit.
"All the routes have to be laid out and checked out — sometimes you [have] to weld down the manhole covers," Mathers said.
"Every place that they visit has to be swept and then secured. If we know that the Pope is going to this particular church, then we send our people in. They sweep the whole place for explosive devices and then they have to secure it so that no one can come in after and put one in.
"That takes a lot of people and a lot of time to do that and a lot of planning as well — significant amounts of planning."
Other costs for these types of trips include bringing in specialized equipment and vehicles, aircraft for surveillance and counter-surveillance, crowd control, motorcades for traffic and screening of guests at every venue, Mathers said.
Mathers said the RCMP have the final say on where a dignitary is or isn't allowed to go during a visit, though in the end, some dignitaries take their itineraries into their own hands.
"When a VIP decides, 'Oh, you know, I think I'm going to McDonald's and shake hands.' That causes no end of problems for the people that are bodyguarding him," Mathers said, citing how in Ottawa in 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama, decided to walk into the city's ByWard Market to order a BeaverTail.
In a statement to CBC News, the RCMP said its role was to ensure the Pope was protected and safe while in Canada and that he was able to carry out his visit as planned.
"The level of protection/security was determined by Protective Services, taking into consideration the status of the visitor and the visit itself, the threat environment and a number of other factors," the statement reads.
"We are constantly adapting our security measures to the current environment in order to ensure an adequate level of protection for all our protectees, based on the latest threat and risk assessments."