Editorial: Strong-arm diplomacy

Over the years, Canada has earned a reputation for intervening in foreign conflicts. But that work is usually done by members of the military, not by the diplomatic corps.

Not to take away from the actions of Kevin Vickers when he helped bring down a shooter on Parliament Hill, but he should not have interfered with a peaceful protester at a ceremony in Dublin Thursday.

article continues below

Vickers, Canada’s ambassador to Ireland, was a guest of the Irish foreign minister at a ceremony held in remembrance of more than 100 British soldiers who died during the Easter Rising of 1916. Shortly after the service began, a man stood and shouted: “This is an insult.”

Brian Murphy, the protester, passed British and Irish military officers on his way to the podium; Irish police and an honour guard were present. Yet it was Vickers who jumped in and wrestled Murphy away, holding him until he could be handcuffed by police.

Vickers’ instincts spurred him to act on Oct. 22, 2014, when a gunman, after fatally shooting an honorary guard at the National War Memorial, stormed into the Parliament building. Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was killed in a blizzard of bullets fired by Parliament Hill security personnel, including Vickers.

Perhaps Vickers, who was an RCMP officer for 29 years before becoming Canada’s parliamentary sergeant-at-arms, sensed danger and acted instinctively in Dublin. But there was no indication that Murphy carried a weapon; no one appears to think the man intended to cause anyone physical harm.

And while it was Vickers’ duty — which he fulfilled admirably — to combat danger on Parliament Hill, it is not his duty to quell protest in Ireland. In fact, his actions were in shocking breach of diplomatic protocol. An ambassador’s job is supposed to avoid getting involved in the domestic affairs of the host country.

While some of Vickers’ admirers are chortling through social media about the actions of Canada’s “AmBadAssador,” others with more adult perspectives are wincing at this embarrassing blooper.

Given that Vickers is widely known as a good guy, and considering his unhesitating bravery on Parliament Hill, this diplomatic gaffe will likely blow over. We hope so.

But we also hope that Vickers will pause to think if such an occasion rises again, and will leave Canada’s international peacekeeping efforts up to the military.

Read Related Topics

© Copyright Times Colonist