Saying he's inspired by frontline workers facing harassment on the job, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said today he won't let "the mob" control his campaign after he was sprayed with gravel during a raucous protest in London, Ont. yesterday.
"No one should be doing their jobs under the threat of violence or acts that put them in danger," he said during a campaign stop in Montreal today.
"There are health care workers across the country who are getting hassled and intimidated and bullied as they are going in to work to keep people safe and alive. There are store clerks, waitresses, people going about their daily lives getting yelled at and pushed around for wearing masks, for being vaccinated. That's not how we do things in Canada."
In an email to CBC News Tuesday, a spokesperson for the London Police Service (LPS) said it has opened an investigation into the incident. The LPS is asking anyone with information to contact them.
Several protests were staged outside hospitals, police headquarters and other busy areas across Ontario last week in response to Premier Doug Ford's announcement of the province's COVID-19 vaccine passport plan on Wednesday.
Similar protests were staged against COVID-19 vaccinations across British Columbia, with thousands of demonstrators gathered outside hospitals in Vancouver, Kelowna, Kamloops, Victoria, Prince George and Nanaimo.
"Those are the people that I think about, those are the people I want to defend from being tossed gravel at, from being spat on for having someone tug at their mask or just make them feel terrible as they're going in for an 18 hour shift to save the lives of people who themselves chose not to get vaccinated," Trudeau said. "Come on."
Trudeau's comments came a day after he was sprayed by gravel as he boarded his bus, which was surrounded by outraged protesters.
Trudeau later confirmed to reporters on the campaign plane that he was hit by gravel but said he was fine.
Trudeau described the protesters as a "mob" and "practically foaming at the mouth," while drawing a distinction between anti-vaccine protesters and those who are merely hesitant.
"We will not let them win. They will not interfere with the way this election is presenting a clear choice to Canadians," he said.
Trudeau had to cancel an appearance earlier in the campaign due to angry crowds. While promising to not flinch in the face of angry protests, he also said he will listen to the RCMP's advice regarding security.
Trudeau said he talked to the Mounties after the gravel incident and told them he was OK, adding that he will leave any discussion of charges up to police.
A spokesperson for the RCMP's National Division said the force continues to run threat and risk assessments to determine appropriate levels of protective services for the leaders and "adapt its protective posture accordingly."
"The RCMP continues to monitor all campaign events to ensure the safety of all Canadians," said Cpl. Kim Chamberland.
"Public order is the responsibility of the local police of jurisdiction. Police will respect individuals' rights to freedom of expression and demonstration in a lawful manner. In the event of any unlawful acts, including public order issues, police will respond in an appropriate and professional manner in accordance with the law."
Bernier condemns violence
Many protesters in the crowd Monday were sporting purple and waving People's Party of Canada signs.
PPC Leader Maxime Bernier condemned the gravel incident on Twitter Tuesday morning, but added that no leader made a statement when he was egged last week.
"Someone hit me with an egg last week. I note that none of the other party leaders made any statement," he said.
"Some idiot threw pebbles at Mr. Trudeau yesterday. I condemn it. Words are our weapons. But physical violence is always wrong."
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh both swiftly denounced the incident Monday night.
"We live in a great democracy, and let's act like we do," added O'Toole from Ottawa Tuesday.
While making an announcement on climate change in Toronto, Singh said he was worried about Trudeau, his family, the journalists travelling with the campaign and party volunteers.
"I can't imagine that I'm saying this in 2021 — don't throw stones at people because you disagree with them. That is basic. That should not be happening," he said.
"But these are some clearly troubled people who think it's OK to throw stones at someone."
The RCMP said that in 2020, it opened approximately 273 files on reports of individuals threatening cabinet ministers. Of those, 197 involved threats against the prime minister.
Over the first six months of this year, the RCMP launched about 215 files on direct and indirect threats made against federal politicians — 158 of them involving threats against the prime minister.
"Typically there is an uptick in threats due to government announcements, COVID restrictions and leading up to and during an election," said Chamberland.
"For security reasons, the number of threats since the beginning of the writ period will not be released at this time."
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