A B.C. activist wearing a T-shirt paying tribute to a drowned three-year-old Syrian refugee says he was arrested after managing to get through tight security around the venue where Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was campaigning on Thursday.
Sean Devlin said he intended to get on stage with Mr. Harper and ask him about the death of Alan Kurdi, whose body was found on a Turkish beach after a boat carrying him, a brother and his father tipped over during a dangerous journey from Syria. The boy's death, and the debate about refugees it inflamed, prompted Mr. Harper to scrap his planned election-campaign remarks at an event in Surrey, southeast of Vancouver, and speak to refugee policy.
Mr. Devlin last made headlines following a 2014 incident in which he walked on the stage of a B.C. Chamber of Commerce event featuring Mr. Harper to protest government climate-change policy.
On Thursday, he was wearing a home-made T-shirt that said "Aylan Should Be Here" – a reference to Alan Kurdi. He wore a blazer over the shirt that concealed it.
"I was planning to unbutton my blazer and go stand beside the prime minister and hopefully ask him a question if I was given the time," Mr. Devlin said in an interview.
He said he expected he would be removed quickly, but that the slogan on the shirt would provoke debate.
After reading an online newspaper report as well as an online Conservative Party announcement about the event, the Vancouver resident travelled Thursday morning to the Surrey warehouse where the Conservative Party event was being held.
"They were directing traffic through the gate. There was another door in the gate that was open. I just walked through it. Nobody asked me anything," said Mr. Devlin.
He said he went to a holding room where party members were eating breakfast before showing their official registration and receiving wristbands, which were being checked by security on the way in.
Mr. Devlin said he went in through another open door.
"I simply walked through. Nobody asked me any questions. I didn't have a wristband. I also didn't lie to anybody," he said. "No one stopped me."
He said he was waiting in the warehouse venue for Mr. Harper's appearance when a party photographer asked him to stand on stage behind Mr. Harper's podium because " they needed younger faces" as a backdrop for the Conservative leader.
After about 20-minutes effort to arrange the group, Mr. Devlin said some of the security detail noticed the writing on his shirt and he was detained, arrested by Mr. Harper's security detail for obstruction of justice and removed from the venue. Mr. Devlin said
He said an RCMP officer from Surrey took him into custody and he was transported to the Surrey RCMP detachment where he was held for several hours before being released.
"They said there were no charges at this point, but charges could be laid at any time in the next six months."
A spokesperson for the Conservative Party confirmed the arrest in an e-mail, but referred further questions to the RCMP. The RCMP in British Columbia referred questions to their national division, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.