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The taped-up door of the the Chinese Cultural Centre in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday. (Handout)
The taped-up door of the the Chinese Cultural Centre in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday. (Handout)

Insite protesters promise to dog Harper's Olympic appearances Add to ...

Supporters of Vancouver's safe-injection site are promising to interfere with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Olympic appearances after forcing him to postpone an appearance visit to a Chinese Cultural Centre with a feisty protest yesterday.

Nathan Allen, a spokesman for Insite for Community Safety, promised the continued activism "if we know where [Mr. Harper]is" after a protest in which activists chained the doors of the downtown Chinese Cultural Centre ahead of Mr. Harper's appearance.

The demonstration, which drew dozens of Vancouver police officers who stood between the building and about 150 protesters, came in the same week that the federal Conservative government said it would launch an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada to shut down Insite, which provides addicts with a safe, clean place to use their drugs.

Not long before the Prime Minister's scheduled photo op at the Chinese Cultural Centre, a few blocks from Insite in the Downtown Eastside, the protesters wrapped yellow caution tape around the complex, then chained the doors.

Vancouver police removed the chains before allowing the protest to continue.

The situation prompted a barbed exchange between Libby Davies, the Vancouver East MP for the NDP, and Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for Mr. Harper.

Mr. Soudas criticized Ms. Davies for calling the protest impressive on Twitter, noting in an e-mail that "veterans, seniors and young children" were trapped inside because Ms. Davies's "welcoming committee" closed the exits.

"We had an NDP MP outside cheering them on," he said in a subsequent interview.

Ms. Davies watched the protest and left before it ended. However, she denied she had anything to do with organizing it - an assertion backed up by Mr. Allen.

Mr. Harper will visit the B.C. Legislature today.

While the debate about Mr. Harper's decision to prorogue Parliament continues, he'll deliver a speech on the eve of the 2010 Winter Olympics Games to salute the province for its role as host.

Federal Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff helpfully sent B.C. legislators a list of questions they could ask on his behalf.

"I am writing to you as fellow Parliamentarians … to ask you a favour," he wrote in the letter, released yesterday. "Since we in the House of Commons can't ask Mr. Harper any questions, and since you'll have him in the B.C. Legislature, maybe you could try and get some answers from him," he wrote in the letter, released yesterday.

But as B.C. New Democratic Party leader Carole James noted, there is no chance to do anything but sit back and listen. "Mr. Ignatieff knows those questions can be asked outside the legislature," she said. "If the Prime Minister wants to address the legislature, we don't have a problem with that."

Mr. Harper will not be available for questions outside the House, either, as he will not meet with reporters. He will meet privately with B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell. He'll head back to Vancouver to attend the opening ceremonies tomorrowFRI.

In Ottawa, the federal Liberal Leader said it is "ridiculous" that the Prime Minister will deliver a speech about the Olympics in Victoria.

"He ought to be giving it in this room behind us," he said in front of the Commons. "This is the Parliament of Canada. That's where that speech should be given. But he's prorogued," he said, adding: "I sure hope he doesn't prorogue the B.C. Legislature." After sitting for just three days this month, the B.C. Legislature will break for the duration of the Games.

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