Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, stands outside Ecuador’s London embassy in 2017. The extensive database covers many areas, including Penticton. (Frank Augstein - AP Photo)

South Okanagan sneaks into Wikileaks

Penticton a sour note in 1978 Trudeau tour

The only sour note on former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s 1978 B.C. tour happened in Penticton.

That’s according to a report filed by the American Consulate in Vancouver, reporting to then U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. The electronic telegram shows up in the Wikileaks database, one of a few documents relating to Penticton.

The “sole sour note” happened when the elder Trudeau told a student audience his greatest achievement was an improvement in the freedom of the individual Canadian, prompting a question why some students had been frisked by the RCMP before entering the auditorium.

“Trudeau responded he was ‘flabbergasted’ and, after a quick conference with Justice Minister Ron Basford, he said student frisking was not standard security practice and someone on force had been overzealous,” reads the report, which also noted the incident made Vancouver front-page headlines.

“RCMP later clarified that only student investigated had been the questioner who had been suspected (unfounded as it turned out) of planning to throw a pie at the PM.”

Current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau repeated the visit two decades later and was greeted by an also (mostly) enthusiastic crowd. There were no pie-related threats, however.

READ MORE: Prime Minister Trudeau visits South Okanagan

The report goes into considerable detail about the tour, from the “official justification,” the opening of the Northern Winter Games in Prince George and the Vernon Winter Carnival to a less fun reason.

“Co-incidentally, Trudeau visited four ridings that will be closely contested when a federal election is called under the new electoral distribution boundaries in B.C.,” states the report, which adds Trudeau “drew substantial and hospitable crowds” in Prince George, Williams Lake, Vernon and Penticton, calling it “an area of B.C. where Tory leader Joe Clark made a generally lacklustre tour last June.”

The report goes into detail about the subject of Trudeau’s talks and how he addressed questions about the economy, as well as delivering a judgement.

“His presence undoubtedly will assist local fund-raising and spur party workers to greater efforts. it is too much to expect, however, that one short visit would substantially alter the prospects for a continuation of PC domination of B.C.’s parliamentary seats in Ottawa in the next election.”

Penticton also shows up, along with Kelowna, in messages that indicate the U.S. government was carefully watching the then-ongoing debate about Canadian cable systems replacing U.S advertising with Canadian.

Julian Assange may be cooling his heels in a British jail, awaiting an uncertain fate, but the organization he founded continues.


Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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