National Post (Latest Edition)

Stranger punches Joe Clark in Montreal

Attacker first checked it was former PM

- BY GLEN MCGREGOR

Joe Clark was assaulted on a downtown Montreal street last month by a man who asked if he was the former prime minister before punching him in the face and leaving him with a bloody nose.

Mr. Clark says he was walking down Sherbrooke Street on the evening of Nov. 20 on his way to a speech by former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright when he heard someone call out to him.

“A fellow called my name and said, ‘Are you Joe Clark, the former prime minister?’ ” Mr. Clark told CanWest News Service yesterday. “My initial response was to say ‘Hi’ and off I went. He then came along beside me and repeated it. And I said, ‘Yes.’ And he then hit me once on the face. He then swiveled and was away quickly.”

Mr. Clark was left shocked but not seriously hurt.

“He may well have been aiming to break either my glasses or nose but he did neither. My nose sort of bloodied briefly, internally, but nothing serious,” he said.

“I was stunned. It hasn’t happened to me before.”

Like all former prime ministers, Mr. Clark is entitled to RCMP protection, should he or the police feel he needs it. But he says he hasn’t had a bodyguard in some time.

“The arrangemen­t I’ve had with the police for some time is that if either they or I think there’s a need, then we trigger something.”

Mr. Clark, 68, says he notified the RCMP and they referred the incident to the Montreal police, who interviewe­d him in detail.

The assailant was in his forties or fifties, Mr. Clark said. “He was a white Anglo-Saxon. He was unaccented in his speech to me.”

Mr. Clark has been in touch with both the RCMP and Montreal police over the past week but he says they haven’t made an arrest.

“My impression from the Mounted Police is that, as a result of this incident, they’re going to conduct a fresh assessment.”

In an email, RCMP spokeswoma­n Constable Pat Flood said, “The RCMP determines the level of protection to be provided to its protectees by evaluating the threat and determinin­g the most appropriat­e measure to take.”

While the bizarre attack was apparently political, it was unclear what set off the assailant. Mr. Clark served as prime minister for nine months in 1979-80 before his government fell in a non-confidence motion. He later served as external affairs minister under Brian Mulroney’s government and returned as Progressiv­e Conservati­ve party leader in 1998.

While some prime ministers — Mr. Mulroney and Pierre Trudeau among them — continued to evoke strong negative reactions long after they left office, Mr. Clark was not a particular­ly controvers­ial figure. His low-profile earned him the nickname “Joe Who?”.

Attacks on Canadian politician­s remain rare. In 1996, Jean Chrétien was confronted by a protester and grabbed the man by the throat. And in Charlottet­own in 2000, a mischief-maker threw a pie into Mr. Chrétien’s face.

Since last year, Mr. Clark has been teaching at McGill University’s Centre for Developing-Area Studies in Montreal.

 ?? JIM YOUNG / REUTERS FILE PHOTO ?? Joe Clark told police of the assault.
JIM YOUNG / REUTERS FILE PHOTO Joe Clark told police of the assault.

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