After acknowledging he was struck by gravel thrown at an event in London, Ont., Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau reaffirmed Tuesday that “anti-vaxxer mobs” won’t stop him from in-person campaigning this election.
While at a campaign stop in Montreal, Trudeau spoke out against people who have hurled obscenities towards him throughout the election, with the latest incident happening Monday in southern Ontario.
“Nobody should be doing their jobs under the threats of violence or acts to put them in danger. That’s absolutely unacceptable,” he said.
“That’s not how we do things in Canada, and quite frankly as I continue to campaign, I am inspired by those people who continue to do the right thing in the face of anti-vaxxer mobs, who are not respecting the basic science, and the basic decency that Canadians have rightly come to expect from each other.”
Trudeau was leaving a Labour Day campaign stop Monday when some protesters threw handfuls of gravel and debris at him. The RCMP security detail held up their hands to try and protect Trudeau from getting hit as he got on his campaign bus.
Some members of the media following the Liberal campaign were hit by the small projectiles, but were not hurt.
Many of the protesters in London appeared angry about COVID-19 health measures and vaccination requirements, and yelled slurs and insults at Trudeau.
In a statement to Global News later on Tuesday, London police confirmed it had commenced an investigation into the incident.
On Tuesday, Trudeau said he “felt some gravel” but wasn’t injured. He compared Monday’s incident to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol building, and said Canada should be firm and not let such polarization plague the country.
“Obviously, one of the goals of those mobs of anti-vaxxers is to prevent political events from happening, to prevent Canadians from being able to make an informed choice about the kind of leadership we need to move forward through this pandemic and out of it,” he said.
“They want to make their shouting and their aggression override democratic processes that have been going on for generations in this country and in other democracies around the world. We will not let them win; they will not interfere with the way this election is presenting a clear choice to Canadians.”
While speaking at a campaign stop in Toronto, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called the protesters “troubled people.”
“I disagree with Mr. Trudeau all the time, but it is absolutely wrong to be throwing stones. I can’t imagine that I’m saying this in 2021: don’t throw stones at people because you disagree with people,” he said.
“That is basic and that shouldn’t be happening, but these are some clearly troubled people who think it’s OK to throw stones at someone.”
Singh added that officials have to make sure campaign teams are safe throughout the rest of the election.
“We’ve got to assess the security before we do an event, sadly, because of people like this who are causing a real threat to the media that comes with us on the tour, to our volunteers, to our staff, to our team,” he said.
“This can’t happen and we got to be careful that we don’t allow us to be in a situation where this happens again.”
In Ottawa, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole also condemned the protesters’ actions.
“I don’t agree with Mr. Trudeau on many things, but I respect his ability to be able to communicate with Canadians free of harassment, intimidation and violence and for our media to report on that,” he said.
“We should remember the country we are, which is a great democracy, (and) that we need to have an election that reflects that.”
Also campaigning in Ottawa, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet told reporters in French that in a free society like Canada, with media and social media, “it’s never necessary or relevant to resort to intimidation or violence.”
In a tweet Tuesday, People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier said “physical violence is always wrong.”
“Someone hit me with an egg last week. I note that none of the other party leaders made any statement,” he wrote.
“Some idiot threw pebbles at Mr. Trudeau yesterday. I condemn it. Words are our weapons. But physical violence is always wrong.”
A spokesperson for the Green Party of Canada told Global News by email it “deplores the actions of protesters who threw rocks at Justin Trudeau yesterday, or any kind of violence against public figures.”
Trudeau has been followed by angry crowds throughout the campaign, forcing the Liberals to cancel at least one event in Bolton, Ont., last month and to postpone others.
Election day is Sept. 20.