Cabinet minister in camouflage with gun almost set off security alarm at legislature

A leaked letter says that Jeremy Harrison, Saskatchewan’s trade minister, nearly caused a security incident when he walked into the legislature wearing camouflage clothing with a long gun in a case.

The opposition NDP said Wednesday that the document fuels further suspicions of Harrison’s story and reinforces that he has lost confidence and should be fired from Prime Minister Scott Moe’s cabinet.

“These are not minor inconsistencies,” NDP Leader Carla Beck told reporters as she presented the letter, which was also obtained by The Canadian Press.

“The minister has once again been caught red-handed in a lie. This must be it. The Prime Minister needs to show some leadership here.”

Beck noted that the Saskatchewan Party member took up the gun in the legislature in April 2016, more than a year after a lone gunman killed a ceremonial guard at the war memorial in Ottawa before entering Parliament, where he was shot dead.

“There was increased security (afterward). We’ve seen some safety measures come in, and this is (Harrison’s) assessment?” Beck said.

When the matter came to light two weeks ago, Harrison denied it had happened.

Earlier this week, he admitted taking a gun into the legislature but insisted security was kept informed.

However, the letter states that security was not informed.

The letter, dated April 29, 2016, is from the acting sergeant-at-arms. The legislature was not in session at the time, as the provincial election had taken place two weeks earlier.
The name of the person to whom the letter was sent is redacted.

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On that day, the letter said, tensions arose when security noticed an unrecognizable man in camouflage walking toward the legislature with a gun case.

The letter states that a desk clerk “was about to turn on his radio and announce that there was a GUN.”

A security guard moved closer to the man to get his attention by saying “sir” before realizing it was the legislative member.

“Harrison walked past the (security) kiosk with his gun case and disappeared around the corner. The weapon itself was not visible, but it was clear that it was a gun case,” the letter said.
It adds that Harrison went coyote hunting with the Speaker at the time.

In the letter, the acting sergeant-at-arms wrote that security “must be informed in advance of this type of behavior, even by an MLA.”

The letter also states that security must be able to confiscate all weapons. “Under these circumstances, there is no need for anyone in this building to have a weapon.”

The letter is the latest twist in the controversy that began May 16 and has embroiled both Moe and his ruling Saskatchewan Party.

On the last day of the spring meeting, Chairman Randy Weekes publicly accused Harrison of: ever bringing a shotgun into the building; wanting to carry a gun; and threatening the Speaker by flashing the inside of his suit jacket as if to imply he had a gun.

A day later, Moe told reporters that the Speaker’s accusations were “unequivocally false.”

In the days that followed, as pressure mounted on Harrison to explain himself, he admitted in a statement that he brought a gun into the Legislature about a decade ago to prevent it from being stolen from his truck.

He apologized and said he was quitting his job as leader of the government house but remained in the cabinet.

Harrison also insisted that he brought his gun into the Legislature “with the knowledge of security officials.”

On Monday, he went further, telling reporters that he initially forgot to bring the gun into the Legislature and that his family helped jog his memory.

He also said he had notified security, but did not say which security officials.

A spokesperson for Moe’s office said Wednesday that the prime minister supports Harrison and has a different interpretation of the minister’s statement on security.

“(Harrison) indicated (he was carrying the weapon) with the knowledge of security officials,” the spokesperson said.

Weekes has cut ties with the Saskatchewan Party. Earlier in the meeting, the chairman also accused fellow caucus members, including Harrison, of sending him inappropriate text messages in an attempt to intimidate him in his role as an impartial facilitator of the House debate.

Harrison admitted sending a text to Weekes with an expletive and said it was inappropriate.

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