During a visit to North Vancouver, Prime Minister Stephen Harper dodged reporters' questions about the Mike Duffy trial, which started today. 

"I had no knowledge of these events and won't comment on a matter before the courts," Harper said, adding that he would not be appearing at the trial either. 

Suspended Senator Mike Duffy's criminal trial began in Ottawa today, over his acceptance of $90,000 from former Harper chief of staff Nigel Wright, who offered Duffy money to help pay for contested living expenses. The trial implicates many former members of the prime minister's office, including his former legal advisor. 

Harper was visiting Seycove Secondary School to announce new changes to the Canada Student Grants program, which would increase the number of training programs eligible for government help.

Harper said the change would help tens of thousands of Canadians find well-paying jobs. 

The youth, who were photographed with the prime minister wearing hard hats, were allegedly not students from Seycove Secondary, but had arrived on a bus for the event from Sprott Shaw College. 

Parents and citizens protested Harper's visit, saying that students were being used as 'props' for political purposes. 

“They don’t wear hard hats at this school. He wasn’t here to hear from students on their concerns," said Bruce McLeod, a North Vancouver resident and father.

 Bruce McLeod photo by Danny Kresnyak

"This was a partisan political use of the school facilities and particularly troubling give the use of students as props in a photo opportunity.”

McLeod said the event was pulling attention away from other crucial issues such as the robocall scandal, Bill C-51, and Canada's military role in Syria. 

“Marching the kids in for the cameras – it’s all a bit much,” said Carol Baird-Ellan, a North Shore resident and local candidate for the New Democratic Party.  

While visiting the North Vancouver school, Harper also criticized Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's father, saying the Pierre Trudeau government kicked off the "phenomenon" of big deficits in Canada.