Justin Trudeau and Erin O’Toole scold over who is to blame for ‘Freedom Convoy’ protest

OTTAWA – Political tensions over protests on Parliament Hill intensified on Monday as liberals and conservatives denounced each other’s reactions to the protests, even as the crowd began to wane.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested that those opposed to COVID-19 vaccination mandates who flocked to Parliament Hill over the weekend fall prey to conspiracy theories about “microchips, about God knows what else with tin foil hats.”

And acts of hatred that took place during the protest – such as the waving of Nazi flags and the desecration of the National War Memorial – should give politicians such as Conservative leader Erin O’Toole a break before casting their lot with the protesters, Trudeau said. .

“I think Erin O’Toole is going to have to think very carefully about how he walks a path that supports these people who do not represent truck drivers, let alone the vast majority of Canadians,” Trudeau said at a news conference on Monday.

The “Freedom Convoy” protests were spurred on by a requirement that commercial truck drivers be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to drive across the Canada-US border. The US has introduced a similar rule. Thousands of protesters came to Ottawa to protest against the vaccination mandates.

While the Canadian Trucking Alliances said the vast majority of truck drivers were vaccinated, the protest also drew people from outside the industry who expressed concern and frustrations about ongoing pandemic restrictions. These are the people the Conservatives said they support, and O’Toole met Friday with a handful of truck drivers on their way to Ottawa.

Over the weekend, some protesters refused to wear masks inside shopping malls and harassed staff, leading to widespread business closures in the city center. Workers at a homeless shelter were threatened, protesters danced at the National War Monument, and Nazi flags and other racist images were displayed in the crowd.

O’Toole on Monday denounced those behind what he called the “handful of unacceptable incidents”.

What drives the protests is anger and fear, he told a Facebook Live event, which is the product of the politics Trudeau played with through a campaign on vaccination mandates last year.

“As a country, we have to ask ourselves, how did we end up with divisions and vaccine policies that look more like America’s than anywhere else? How did Canada, a country that has always praised dialogue, discussion, moderation, end up in our politics with this anger and revulsion? asked O’Toole.

“The prime minister must ask himself. Yes, he won, but at what price? ”

Trudeau announced Monday that he had tested positive for COVID-19, a diagnosis that came after one of his children tested positive last week.

He will remain in isolation for at least five days, but said his government will not be bothered by the show on the streets, nor will it meet with the protesters and call them an insult to those who “do the right thing” did not and vaccinated to help end the pandemic.

“Canadians know where I stand,” he said. “This is a moment for responsible leaders to think carefully about where they stand and with whom they stand.”

The battle over the protests dominated much of the year’s first question period in the House of Commons, and Liberal House leader Mark Holland’s plea to soften it on all sides was greeted with mocking remarks from across the corridor.

The lone olive branch extended by the Tories to the Liberals was a wish for Trudeau’s speedy recovery, and O’Toole’s recognition that his own family had COVID-19.

O’Toole’s diagnosis came just as he was set to sit on the Commons in the fall of 2020 as the newly elected party leader, an unfavorable start to what was a challenging 18 months in office.

Amid calls to retire and challenge his MPs, O’Toole’s defense of the truck drivers and meeting with them ended a particularly difficult few weeks, which included a presentation to the caucus on the party’s failure to win last year’s election.

Among the report’s conclusions was that O’Toole failed to be authentic and take definitive views on issues that were important to voters, something he referred to in his remarks Monday.

Polls suggest a shift is underway over how Canadian view COVID-19 restrictions.

An Angus Reid recording Released Monday found that 54 percent say it’s time to remove restrictions, an increase of 15 percentage points since demand was last asked earlier in January.

The survey found that among those who voted conservatively in the last election, 81 percent agreed or strongly agreed that it was time for restrictions to be lifted, while only 34 percent of liberals felt the same way.

The online survey of 1,688 Canadians was conducted on January 27 and 28. Online polls are not considered random, but are less reliable than traditional voting methods.


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