‘I’m not going to back down,’ says Justin Trudeau amid disturbing heckling from protesters Sunday
A photo of Justin Trudeau in a front of a hangman’s noose with the words “High Treason.”
Reports of racial and misogynistic slurs being hurled at female and Black security detail members.
Chants of “Lock him up,” “We’re deplorables,” air sirens, car horns, banging on dumpsters, obscenities.
And the usual — and loud — peddling of conspiracy theories that falsely claim Trudeau is Fidel Castro’s son and a child trafficker.
This is just some of what greeted Trudeau and other Liberals Sunday as the party leader made a campaign stop in Cambridge, Ont., where he and candidate Chrystia Freeland were nearly drowned out by about 100 protesters as they made an announcement about climate change.
The Liberal leader insisted that the protests — which have now become a daily occurrence at his events — will not impact his engagements as the federal election campaign enters its third week.
“I do think we need to understand that people have had a tough year, that the world is changing rapidly, that there is fear, there is anxiety out there,” he said. “But let me be also very, very clear: I am absolutely resolute in my conviction to continue to move Canada forward.”
Nor, he says, will the constant heckling lead him to soften his stances on issues that have sparked some of the vocal opposition, like the urgent need to address climate change, and COVID-19 vaccines — which his government has mandated for federal workers as well as air and rail travellers.
“I’m not going to back down on a message that Canadians know is the right path forward,” he said.
Trudeau was in Cambridge to announce climate change measures including helping industries adopt clean technologies and a promise requiring all passenger vehicles sold in Canada to be zero emission by 2035.
The situation wasn’t so tense that the event had to be cancelled due to safety concerns, which is what happened with a Liberal rally on Friday in Bolton, Ont.
But Sunday’s event — which began an hour late — did have to be organized in such a way so Trudeau could avoid the hecklers, some of whom followed the media bus all the way to the airport afterward.
And the ongoing presence of dozens of vocal anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine protesters — some of whom appear to be following Trudeau around the country — has prompted questions about what awaits the Liberal leader in week three of the campaign, and about the safety of his events.
CBC reporter Travis Dhanraj noted in a question to Trudeau that he heard a racist slur being hurled at a Black security detail member and a misogynist slur yelled at a female officer, along with death threats against Trudeau.
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“This needs to make us even more convinced of the importance of the choice in this election,” Trudeau said.
“Do we fall into division, and hatred, and racism, and violence? Or do we say, ‘no, you know what, that doesn’t work to get us to back down. That won’t scare Canadians from standing up for what’s right.’
“Canadians will not back down. And neither will I.”
It was a decidedly more quiet day on the campaign trail for Trudeau’s main opponents.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole announced further measures Sunday morning to assist small and medium-sized businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, while appearing at a bowling alley in Saint-Hyacinthe, Que.
The Conservatives would introduce a 25 per cent tax credit on amounts of up to $100,000 that Canadians personally invest in a small business over the next two years, as well as interest-free loans for small businesses of up to $200,000, with up to 25 per cent forgivable.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh launched a new website to inform Canadians on how to vote during the pandemic, while appearing in Quebec alongside former NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau, who is seeking to win back her seat — part of the NDP’s efforts to grow its number of Quebec seats, which currently sits at one.
The leaders head into the third week of the campaign amid rising COVID-19 case counts in several parts of the country, along with increases in hospitalizations, mainly among the unvaccinated.
Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, will give her first press briefing since the start of the campaign this week, and release new pandemic modelling numbers.
The Conservatives are expected to continue focusing this week on measures for workers and creating jobs. The NDP will be continuing to focus on how they would crack down on the ultra-rich and make life more affordable, and contrasting that with the Liberals’ handling of tax loopholes and tax havens.
The Liberals will be making policy announcements on several topics, and this could also be the week that the party releases its platform, which Trudeau said Sunday will come out “in the coming days.”
And the three leaders, along with Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, will face off in their first debate on Thursday in French, hosted by Quebec television network TVA.
The two official debates of the election campaign, one in French and one in English, will be held Sept. 8 and 9.
With files from Susan Delacourt
Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant
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