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Buckingham Palace: Hoax Call To Queen Was Aided By Canadian Foul-up

October 29, 1995 GMT

LONDON (AP) _ Queen Elizabeth II was tricked into going on the air with a radio host impersonating the Canadian prime minister largely because of a foul-up in Ottawa, Buckingham Palace said Saturday.

After Montreal radio host Pierre Brassard asked to speak to the queen, Buckingham Palace checked with Canadian officials. An official in Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s office said the Canadian leader probably wanted to update the queen on Monday’s separatism vote in Quebec.

The queen then spoke with Brassard for 17 minutes because he is ``a skilled impersonator,″ a palace spokesman said on customary anonymity.

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The spokesman said Buckingham Palace would review procedures for screening the queen’s telephone calls, but said Brassard’s hoax ``happened against an entirely plausible scenario.″

Chretien’s office has refused to comment on Thursday’s incident, but Royce Frith, the Canadian high commissioner in London, said he wasn’t overly concerned about the prank.

``I thought the Queen was terrific,″ he said. ``I don’t think it embarrasses the relationship between the two countries or between the queen and her subjects, particularly considering how well she did.″

Brassard spoke with the queen about subjects ranging from her Halloween plans to the Quebec referendum. The queen voiced her support for Canadian unity, agreeing with Chretien that Quebec residents should vote against separation.

The palace called the incident more of a nuisance than an embarrassment.

``We think it’s annoying,″ the spokesman said. ``We think it’s irritating. We think it’s a waste of the queen’s time.″

Brassard played his hoax after someone with his radio station, CKOI, phoned Buckingham Palace, claiming to be a member of Chretien’s staff who is known to Buckingham Palace officials.

Palace officials attempted to confirm the request by telephoning the Governor General’s Office in Canada, as protocol dictates. By chance, palace officials caught a senior member in Chretien’s office.

``That person said it was probably that the prime minister wanted to give the queen an update″ on the situation in Quebec, so the telephone call with the queen was set up, said the palace spokesman.

``The application which appeared to come from the Canadian prime minister’s office _ when it was checked by Buckingham Palace _ seemed to be authenticated by the Canadians,″ the spokesman said.

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He would not identify the Canadian official.

Brassard, who has duped other famous people, including Pope John Paul II and Brigitte Bardot, into going on the air, basked in his latest success.

``This is a great day,″ he boasted to BBC Radio 4.

``She is very funny. She talked to me in English. I said: `I am nervous, my English is not good. Could we talk in French?′ and she said, `Yes, of course,′ and we talked for five or four minutes in French,″ he said.

``That kind of conversation is a good thing because we see the human side of the person,″ he said. ``She is a person like you and me.″