The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) pulled a plane hired by the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) back down to Rockcliffe Airport due to its political message on Saturday 1 September. The PSAC had hired a plane (image attached) to fly over Ottawa and Gatineau with a trailing banner which read, in French, “StephenHarperNousDéteste.ca”, (Stephen Harper Hates Us). Over the previous two weeks the plane had been making the rounds over Montréal and other communities in Québec as part of the PSAC’s “We Are All Affected” campaign.
The plane left Ottawa’s Rockcliffe airport on Saturday morning and had been up in the air for less than two hours before the RCMP instructed the pilot to return to the airport for an interrogation. The RCMP stated that it needed to intervene due to the nature of the political message and because the plane entered restricted airspace around Parliament Hill. However, the pilot was fully aware of airspace restrictions in place in Ottawa and Nav Canada, Canada’s air traffic control service, confirms that for the entire flight the PSAC-hired airplane remained outside the restricted zone.
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 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.