The Parliamentary Protective Service has apologized to an Alberta man after he had to turn inside out his shirt proclaiming his love of oil and gas before touring the Senate this summer.
William Lacey, the chief financial officer of Steelhead Petroleum, released an open letter online to the prime minister, senators, and MPs Wednesday outlining the incident.
Lacey wrote that he and his wife recently visited Parliament Hill and were stopped by security before touring the Senate.
“We were taken aside by security and told that the shirt I was wearing needed to be removed as it may offend some people,” he said.
According to an image he included in the post, Lacey was wearing a black T-shirt that said: “I <3 Oil & Gas,” with a heart and maple leaf. The shirt comes from a pro-oil-and-gas organization called Canada Action.
“The last time I checked there was nothing illegal about the Canadian energy sector, and yet I was made to feel as though I should be embarrassed for what I was wearing. The solution? I was told I could either leave or I could turn my shirt inside out and take part in the tour - I chose the latter option,” he wrote.
“The next stop on our tour was the House of Commons, where I was welcomed and there were absolutely no concerns expressed regarding my shirt. I went out of my way to talk with various members of security and not one of them raised an eyebrow at my shirt.”
Lacey ended his letter asking if “it is the policy of the Government of Canada to shame members of the Canadian energy industry.”
PPS superintendent Guillaume Vandal told The Canadian Press in an email Thursday that personnel “misinterpreted” the message on the shirt and that the “staff involved will be receiving operational guidance and training with respect to visitors to the Hill.”
Lacey later told HuffPost Canada he also received a personal call from Vandal, something he appreciated.
“And I’m appreciative of the fact that the Senate and the staff are really sensitive to these issues and dealt with it very quickly,” he said.
Clothing with ‘political messages’ not permitted in Parliament buildings
According to the Library of Parliament, visitors to the Hill are prohibited from “wearing items or clothing with visible political messages” inside buildings as that would be seen as an act of demonstration.
In 2009, Parliament Hill visitors wearing Greenpeace T-shirts were told to turn them inside out days after an illegal demonstration, according to CityNews.
Saskatchewan Sen. David Tkachuk read Lacey’s letter aloud Thursday morning before the Senate’s standing committee on internal economy, budgets, and administration.
“Is there a policy on what security can deem offensive? It seems odd to me that they would pick this out,” he asked.
Julie Lacroix, the Senate’s director of corporate security, said she also received the letter and reached out to the PPS to look into what happened and review “necessary footage.”
‘I find it outrageous’
Saskatchewan Sen. Denise Batters asked why the service might treat someone in such a shirt differently when visiting the Senate than the House. Lacroix agreed the standards should be the same.
“As a Western Canadian, I find that outrageous,” Batters said.
“As a Canadian, I find it outrageous,” Tkachuk added.
Lacroix suggested that rather than being seen as “offensive,” the shirt may have been interpreted by security staff to have been political.
Watch: Senators seek clarity around rules on pro-oil shirt
Lacroix added she would consult the policy and come back to the group with a “proper response and analysis.”
Quebec Sen. Raymonde Saint-Germain said she wanted the discussion to be shelved until the committee’s next meeting, so that the issue could be properly studied.
Manitoba Sen. Don Plett responded that he wanted some assurance that other Canadians who might wear such a shirt on the Hill won’t be “turned away” in the coming months.
“If I don’t get an answer, I’m buying myself that T-shirt and coming here and seeing how far I can get in the building wearing it because this is ridiculous,” Plett said.
Committee chair and Ontario Sen. Sabi Marwah asked Lacroix to develop a response to senators as soon as possible.
With a file from The Canadian Press