Thursday, November 25, 2004

TORONTO — President Bush won’t have to rescue his Secret Service bodyguards during his upcoming visit to Canada as he did recently in Chile, Canadian security officials said.

But with thousands of protesters expected to demonstrate against Mr. Bush, the White House decided to cut short his visit to Ottawa and travel to Halifax instead.

Mr. Bush is expected to be in Canada on Tuesday and Wednesday on his first official visit to the country since his re-election.

In Canada, Mr. Bush is considered the least popular U.S. president in recent history, and anti-Bush protesters of all stripes and political persuasions are planning massive rallies in the capital, Ottawa.

Tens of thousands are expected to brave the cold to protest Mr. Bush’s policies in the Middle East and the proposed missile-defense program.

Even the Canadian Parliament wasn’t considered a safe enough ground by White House officials.

Stephen Harper, who leads the Conservative Party and is the head of the official opposition, speculated Wednesday that Mr. Bush declined to address the Parliament for fear of heckling by members of left-wing opposition parties.

But Canadian security officials said there would be no repeat of the Saturday incident in Chile, when Mr. Bush had to intervene to stop a shoving match between Chilean security officials and Secret Service agents who were accompanying him to a state dinner.

Chilean security had tried to stop several members of Mr. Bush’s security detail from accompanying him to a dinner with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit’s 21 leaders.

“This won’t happen in Canada,” said Cpl. Monique Beauchamp, spokeswoman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canada’s national police force.

Cpl. Beauchamp said that although the RCMP has the primary responsibility for protecting visiting dignitaries, it does so in collaboration with other federal agencies and foreign partners, including the Secret Service.

But Cpl. Beauchamp would not say whether Mr. Bush’s bodyguards would be allowed to accompany him during the meetings with Canadian officials or whether they would be permitted to pack their guns.

“You can understand that for obvious security reasons, we cannot discuss any operational details,” Cpl. Beauchamp said.

An RCMP officer who was part of the top security detail during the 2001 Summit of the Americas in Quebec City said his force and the Secret Service have excellent working relations.

“These are very carefully planned and choreographed events,” said the officer, on the condition of anonymity. “We have protocols, zones. Everybody knows where one side leaves and the other takes over.”

Canadian officials are stepping up security measures ahead of Mr. Bush’s visit. Ottawa municipal police and the Ontario Provincial Police are working on plans for the visit, officials said. Security at the borders and the airports also has been tightened.

Details of Mr. Bush’s itinerary were expected to be confirmed by the White House yesterday, but in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Nova Scotia Premier John Hamm said his officials were told to prepare for Mr. Bush’s arrival.

Mr. Bush is expected to deliver a belated thank you to Nova Scotians for their hospitality after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Forty-four U.S.-bound planes were diverted to the Halifax airport when the airspace over the United States was shut down after the attacks. About 8,000 stranded passengers stayed in hotels, community centers and the homes of local residents until the planes were allowed to continue on their journeys.

Many Canadians felt snubbed when Mr. Bush failed to mention their country in his thank-you address after September 11.

Federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Geoff Regan, the ranking Liberal minister from the Maritimes, said he hopes Nova Scotians extend a “gracious” welcome to Mr. Bush. Mr. Regan added that he doesn’t expect large protests.

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