A Media Analysis on the 1997 APEC Conference

In November 1997, the APEC conference was held in the University of British Colombia in Vancouver. There were a lot of world leaders expected to attend this conference and it was envisioned that there would be a lot of protestors in attendance to hopefully give off a voice and attempt to persuade some of these world leaders. With this in mind, security provided by the RCMP was tightened. Throughout the course of the conference, protestors were subject to pepper spraying, strip searches, and confiscation of banners and signs – all of which were direct violation of the protestors’ rights. The voice of all the media outlets was unanimous in their views of this protest: the blame was on the RCMP and the protestors were victimized. For the analysis of media for this assignment, I have chosen an alternate route. Rather than frame that the protestors were ”out of line”, I will be analyzing how the RCMP were shown as ignorant, passive, and misleading: thus using some of my own frames. Throughout the four news article and one video analyzed, media framed the RCMP as being unsympathetic, being misleading and providing excuses, and being violent. Interestingly, most of these media sources were written a few years after the event when the APEC inquiry was released. Contrary to many articles on protesting discussed in Jules Boykoff’s reading entitled Beyond Bullets: The Suppression of Dissent in the United States, it was the police that received much of the scrutiny.

The popular representation of the APEC conference was that the RCMP used excessive force in dealing with these protestors. Examples of these extremes were “the pepper spraying of protestors, strip searches, confiscation of banners, and more than 40 arrests” (Sudbury Star, 2001). If one were to look at the video, it would display the pepper spray incident vividly. An excessive amount of pepper spray was sprayed onto the protestors. In reference to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, free speech was taken away with the confiscation of the banners and the excessive arrest violates the right against arbitrary detainment and imprisonment. Regardless of the political allegiance of the newspaper, the unanimous view was that the police were in the wrong. A trend with these articles was that there was rarely any mention of what the protestors did to jumpstart this up rise in security. Whatever was mention of the protestors were all quotes to justify the wrongs of the police. Immediately, the legitimacy of these views should be questioned. I find myself questioning why were the police thrusted into such extreme measures to ensure security at this protest? What caused them to act like this? By neglecting to review the RCMP’s reasons for doing these actions, the readers would side against the police.

The first frame I noticed was the RCMP being unsympathetic to the protestors and the outcomes for their wrongdoing. This is most evident in the titles of the articles: “Mounties: No Apology for APEC”, andChief offers no Apology for APEC Incident”. RCMP Corporal Desjardins was quoted in stating that Commissioner Zaccardelli has accepted the errors of the APEC conference, and “that says it all” (Whittington, 2002). Moreover, Commissioner Zaccardelli was slated to not apologize. He was recorded saying that the RCMP will learn from their mistakes and move forward (Bronskill, 2001). There was no mention of remorse towards the victims of the conference. Commissioner Zaccardelli was reported to even undermined the incident saying that the mistakes were “small and would not likely be repeated” (McIntosh, 2001).

The second frame observed was that the RCMP was seen to be giving off a lot of excuses towards why there was a crackdown in security. One excuse that was evident throughout the piece was that the RCMP were appealing to higher loyalties and obeying orders from the government, especially from various federal officials such as Jean Chretien (Prime Minister at the time) and Jean Carle (Chretien’s Director of Operations at the time). Ted Hughes, the commissioner of the report, stated that Carle “inappropriately threw his weight around… pressuring the RCMP to clear protestors” (McIntosh, 2001). Moreover, the RCMP officials “succumbed to government influence” (Sudbury Star, 2001). As a reader, I felt that the RCMP were easily pushed over and influenced by the government. In continuation with showing the deception of the RCMP towards the public, the same newspaper that stated that Chretien “muscled” his was to influence the RCMP, Commissioner Zaccardelli was caught stating that there was no influence by the Government. More on this misleading and deception of the public, Commissioner Zaccardelli was also quoted in stating that the RCMP attempted to use “innovated” police practices in providing security which lead to the breakdown of APEC (Bronskill, 2001). This portrayed the reader with the idea that the RCMP could care less of what happened at APEC for they were trying new ways to provide security. To add on, Commissioner Zaccardelli stated “in hindsight, it was probably not wise to introduce this innovation” (Bronskill, 2001). The reader would see that the RCMP were not well informed or prepared to provide security to such a major invent or that they are just providing an excuse to why security collapsed in the conference.

The video is of a news segment on the CBC in light of the APEC protests. It shows an example of the violence framework. You can see that the police using excessive force towards the protestors. An example would be the protestors being drenched with pepper spray from what looks to be a fire extinguisher. Pepper spray is irritating to a person, and people who have got this in their eyes were seen covering their eyes in clear pain and discomfort. Moreover, the arrests that were shown in the clip showed the protestors beaten with ripped clothes indicating a struggle between the police whereas the police were in clean uniforms. Lastly, in the background, you can hear dogs barking. To a person watching this clip, dogs indicate that the police are ready to go after the protestors with force and protect their interest. For a person, dogs barking loudly can indicate violence and disregard for humanity (dogs biting the protesters is a violent form of controlling them). Moreover, the student CBC interviewed clearly knew what he was talking about, giving off facts in a professional manner, this showed that the protestors knew what they were protesting and that the police did not want them there. The amount of violence shown in this clip shows that the police were overly violent in the world leader’s protection. To top it off, when asked about the pepper spray, Jean Chretien stated that pepper was something he puts on his steak. This only amplifies Jean Chretien’s disregard for the safety of the protestors and making the event seem unimportant; though it was evident that rights of the protestors were broken throughout the conference.

The APEC conference showed the “crackdown” of security of the protestors. Through the analysis of these media sources, I can observe that the RCMP was shown as ignorant and overly excessive. The frames of the RCMP being unsympathetic, creating excuses and being misleading, and using violence to provide the reader the perspective that the RCMP was in the wrong, but are unaccepting of it. This was especially evident when Commissioner Zaccardelli was quoted saying that they “did not intend to criminalize dissent or stifle public protest… but rather to promote efficiency in handling large crowds” (Bronskill, 2001). Though 40 people were arrested, the RCMP is making excuses for their actions. This questions the integrity of the RCMP, ultimately getting the reader to question the RCMP’s legitimacy.


Bronskill, Jim. 2001. “RCMP Admits to ‘Mistakes’ at APEC: The Force Commissioner Responds to Critical Report on 1997 Clash at UBC”. Vancouver Sun, September 8, A3. (Retrieved From Proquest on December 2, 2012).

CBC. 1997. “1997 APEC Protest”. CBC. Retrieved from Youtube on December 8, 2012. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CWNKp0Uyyw&list=LLvdMvMMUjZdHqTH7AKcTo3Q&feature=mh_lolz)

McIntosh, Andrew. 2001. “Chief Offers no Apology for APEC Incident: ‘I Agree with and Accept That Errors were Made by the RCMP Pepper-Sprayed Students’”. National Post, September 8, A4. (Retrieved From Proquest on December 2, 2012).

Sudbury Star. 2001. “RCMP Takes Blame: Mountie Commissioner Accepts Blame For Trouble at 1997 Meeting”. Sudbury Star, September 8, A8. (Retrieved From Proquest on December 2, 2012).

Whittington, Les. 2002. “Mounties: No Apology for APEC; Final Report Chastises RCMP for Behavior”. Toronto Star, March 27, A01. (Retrieved From Proquest on December 2, 2012).


One comment

  1. It is interesting how you mentioned the RCMP were making excuses or were being unsympathtic for their violent behaviour and actions towards these protestors during the APEC summit. This pretty much sums up all the protests that we have looked throughout the year. Almost in all of the protests the excuse from the state is the protection of general public and techiniques of handling potential “threats” during these protests. Just like the quote you mentioned in your anaylsis by Commissioner Zaccardelli saying that they “did not intend to criminalize dissent or stifle public protest… but rather to promote efficiency in handling large crowds” (Bronskill, 2001).



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