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Trudeau condemns aggressive protesters at political events


OTTAWA-

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has canceled plans to appear in person at a Liberal fundraiser in British Columbia on Tuesday after the RCMP warned that an aggressive protest outside the event could escalate if it happens, a said a source familiar with the decision.

The source spoke to The Canadian Press on condition of anonymity as she was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.

Trudeau addressed the issue on Wednesday during a stop in Saskatoon, also attended by protesters who were verbally aggressive with the prime minister’s RCMP protective service and initially blocked his exit from a seniors’ center local.

The prime minister did not explain why he chose to speak virtually at the fundraiser in Surrey, B.C., but expressed disgust at the ‘harassment, racial slurs (and) threats of violence’ targeting the participants, mainly South Asians, upon their arrival.

Witnesses to the protest reported hearing attendees being harassed for wearing turbans, among other racially charged slurs. A protester is seen in a photo wearing a noose suspended from two flat sticks printed with the words ‘treason’ and ‘Trudeau’.

“The safety of Canadians who choose to make their voices heard in politics should never be in question as was the case last night and as we increasingly see across the country,” Trudeau said.

“The fundamental freedoms that we enjoy as a country and that we enjoy as Canadians must be defended, must be protected. No one should feel unsafe or harassed because of their support for one political party or another. And that’s something that I think we all need to be vigilant about.”

He said all levels of government are currently addressing the issue.

It is the second time in 10 months that aggressive protesters have prompted police to advise Trudeau to change his intention to speak at an event. A campaign rally in Bolton, Ont., was completely canceled last August when dozens of furious protesters chanting obscenities against the prime minister took to the site.

He has been followed by angry protesters for much of this campaign, leading to noticeable changes in the way his office manages its schedule. Specific locations for events are no longer included in its published daily routes, for example.

At the start of the convoy protest in Ottawa in January and February, Trudeau and his family were evacuated from their home in the city for several days.

Other leaders, including NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, said they received RCMP protection during the convoy when they were in Ottawa.

A Freedom of Information request released by the Privy Council Office shows that between February 5 and March 23, 26 threats were recorded against Trudeau and eight of his ministers. Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland each received nine threats during that time.

The nature of the threats or actions to be investigated are not included in the statement.

RCMP in British Columbia said in a statement about Tuesday’s event that the protest group started small but grew in number and were joined by cars, larger trucks and vehicles towing trailers “traveling in a convoy-style loop around the roadway”.

“Due to the size and composition of the protest group and for the safety of everyone present, it has been decided that it is not safe for the Prime Minister to attend the scene,” the official said. RCMP press release.

The government source who spoke to The Canadian Press said there were fears Trudeau’s presence could amplify the crowd and put everyone at greater risk.

The Prime Minister’s Office and the RCMP jointly made the decision to cancel Trudeau’s in-person appearance, the source said.

Trudeau is not alone in being followed by more aggressive protesters. In Peterborough, Ont., two weeks ago, Singh was chased to his car outside a provincial NDP campaign office.

In Montreal on Wednesday, Justice Minister David Lametti temporarily walked out of a press conference outside his office when he was confronted by an anti-Israel protester shouting in his face. Lametti returned when the protester left.


— With files from Camille Bains in Vancouver and Mickey Djuric in Saskatoon


This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 25, 2022.

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