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A Facebook exchange between Conservative spokesman Dimitri Soudas and student Awish Aslam, after Ms. Aslam was ejected from a Tory rally in London, Ont.
A Facebook exchange between Conservative spokesman Dimitri Soudas and student Awish Aslam, after Ms. Aslam was ejected from a Tory rally in London, Ont.

RCMP admits it overstepped bounds at Tory events Add to ...

The RCMP is taking responsibility for ousting people from recent Conservative campaign events in southwestern Ontario, acknowledging it broke the rules in doing so and saying it has reminded Mounties to stick to their jobs.

Stephen Harper's campaign has come under criticism this week because a number of people were ejected from his rallies in London and Guelph.

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The focus of attention has been on the role that Tory partisans may have played in these expulsions - but now Mounties have thrust themselves into the story, saying it is not their role to act as bouncers.

The RCMP said its only job is to safeguard the party leaders as they seek re-election.

"The RCMP is responsible for the security of party leaders," Mounties spokesman Sergeant Greg Cox said in a statement.

"This mandate does not include managing the access of persons attending private events," he said.

"RCMP members assigned to the security detail for party leaders have been reminded of their responsibilities."

The Mounties issued two versions of this statement Wednesday to media outlets. The earlier one acknowledged the RCMP played a role in evicting people.

"The RCMP assisted the party organizers in restricting access to persons not registered for the private event," the first statement said.

"This was not in accordance with the RCMP's mandate," it continued.

A handful of episodes in which party operatives have asked people to leave rallies - based on checks of Facebook pages and bumper stickers - have sparked opposition charges that Mr. Harper's supporters are going overboard in their desire to insulate their leader from criticism.

The campaign incident that drew the most attention occurred at an event in London, Ont., on April 3. Awish Aslam and her friend were expelled from the event 30 minutes after arriving because, an official told her, "We know you guys have ties to the Liberal Party through Facebook and you're not welcome here."

Ms. Aslam said she is not a Liberal Party member, but she has a Facebook photo of her and Michael Ignatieff taken when she attended a Liberal rally a week earlier. She said as a political-science student at the University of Western Ontario, she's studying all the parties and had registered to attend the Harper rally with the help of her friend's father, who's a card-carrying Conservative Party member.

National campaign spokesman Dimitri Soudas said Wednesday he's apologized to Ms. Aslam in a personal message via Facebook.

Ms. Aslam said she was satisfied with the Facebook message.

"I wouldn't call it much of an apology, but I guess it's okay," Ms. Aslam said.

The private message, which she shared with the Globe and Mail, reads: "Awish, my name is Dimitri. I wanted to send you a short message of apology for the rally the other night. I'd like to offer to introduce you to Prime Minister Harper next time we are in London."

Ms. Aslam responded to Mr. Soudas, reiterating her interest in meeting the Conservative Leader and sought an explanation for her removal from the rally.

At that point, Mr. Soudas offered his phone number to Ms. Aslam, who said she intends to call him.

A Facebook exchange between Conservative spokesman Dimitri Soudas and student Awish Aslam, after Ms. Aslam was ejected from a Tory rally in London, Ont.

The case of Ms. Aslam isn't the only example. Organizers of the same Harper rally in London reportedly asked Ali Aref Hamadi to leave the Four Points Sheraton because he had an NDP bumper sticker on his vehicle that read: "Don't blame me, I voted NDP."

On Monday, in Guelph, Ont., University of Guelph students were reportedly asked to leave a Harper rally after participating in a demonstration outside to encourage youth voting.

Separately, a Halifax advocate for homeless veterans said last week he was turned away from a Harper media event at the Halifax pier after he tried to enter the premises.

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