By Wojtek Dabrowski
Nelson Mandela will be surrounded by a VIP detachment of RCMP officers working closely with Toronto Police during his honorary-degree reception at Ryerson on Saturday.
RCMP officials confirmed Tuesday that Nelson Mandela has been granted internationally protected person status by the federal government, but would not disclose the security level which has been assigned to the renowned South African human-rights activist.
“Everything is based on threat assessment, and that’s how these things are decided,” said Staff Sgt. Rick Michel of the RCMP’s VIP unit.
Michel said that once Mandela is assigned a security level, “we’re with him from the time he lands to the time he takes off.” The Mounties will be drawing on help from the Toronto Police during Mandela’s visit.
Anyone from a federal judge to U.S. President George W. Bush can be granted protected status, Michel said. The Mounties are monitoring world events and what effects they may have on Mandela in planning out their strategy.
Toronto’s 52 division of police will “offer [the RCMP] whatever support they might require,” said police Staff Sgt. Bob Ellis.
Ryerson is givng Mandela, 83, and his wife Graca Machel, an honorary doctorate of laws for their work with children. Before arriving at Ryerson, Mandela will visit a Toronto public school being renamed in his honour.
That evening, the couple will attend a $5,000-per-couple dinner at the home of business giants Gerry Schwartz and Heater Reisman. All proceeds will got to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fun, which was founded in 1994 to help needy children in South Africa.
The pair will then be whisked off to Ottawa, where Mandela will receive an honorary Canadian citizenship from the federal government on Nov. 19.
Media hype surrounding the Toronto leg of Mandela’s Canadian visit has been mounting steadily. Leading Ryerson to demand media accreditation. About 30 to 40 media personnel from major news outlets are expected to attend, said university spokesman Bruce Piercey.
About 150 students, 125 staff and 100 faculty have also been given tickets for the ceremony, Piercey added.