‘Of course I’m worried,’ Trudeau admits of possible violence at weekend protest

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“People need to know that this protest does not represent truckers and does not represent Canadians. This represents a very small group of very angry Canadians,’ Trudeau said.

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OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s concerned about the potential for violence at a planned protest on Parliament Hill this weekend as truckers and others join the crowds in expressing their anger over travel restrictions. public health to fight COVID-19.

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“Of course I’m worried,” Trudeau said in an interview Friday with The Canadian Press.

“A number of people are there not wanting to incite violence, but there will be, as we have heard, a small group of people who pose a threat to themselves, to each other, to Canadians. .

Ottawa police have warned of the potential for violence from extremists who joined, or in some cases helped organize, the convoy of trucks that began converging on the nation’s capital on Friday.

The so-called “freedom convoy” was billed as a protest against the federal government’s vaccination mandate for cross-border truckers, even though planning for the event began before the policy was established.

While key organizers said violence would not be tolerated, far-right extremists and white nationalists clung to it, with some calling for ‘bullets’ or a ‘mass revolution’ or similar rioting to the insurgents who stormed the US Capitol a year ago.

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  1. Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly, shown in September 2020, said Friday that police had been in contact with truck convoy organizers who said they were planning a peaceful protest.

    Ottawa police warn of ‘lone wolf individuals’ taking advantage of trucker protests

  2. Freedom Convoy supporters protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions outside the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, January 28, 2022.

    Organizers say Ottawa protest is about more than ending truckers’ vaccination mandate

“The problem is that it’s morphed into something much larger that doesn’t represent what the vast majority of truckers are going through, or even the vast majority of Canadians’ perspective on this,” Trudeau said.

“Canadians are not represented by this very troubling, small but very vocal minority of Canadians who attack science, government, society, mandates and public health advice.

Much of the anger is directed at Trudeau personally, with many convoy supporters displaying signs and flags emblazoned with swear words against the prime minister. Some have called for Trudeau to be tried for treason or beaten.

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“I’m not worried about it being personal. It’s sort of what you sign up for when you run for office, to some extent. You know there’s going to be a lot of people who will disagree with you and voice that disagreement… It comes with the territory,” he said.

“But threats of violence should not come with the territory for anyone who comes forward to serve, whether as a politician, as a local representative, or even as a public health official or doctor… This does not makes no sense instead.”

The parliamentary precinct was effectively closed for the weekend. MPs, warned that some people are trying to spread the protest to their homes and constituency offices, have been given advice on how to stay safe.

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The organizers have drawn up a “memorandum of understanding” demanding that the appointed Senate and the Governor General effectively usurp the authority of the elected government and remove all vaccination mandates and other public health restrictions – a constitutional impossibility.

Trudeau said it was typical of “conspiracy theories” that spread “disinformation and misinformation” about the pandemic and how democratic governments work.

They do “a really good job of sounding reasonable or legit using fake experts or pseudo-legal language” and, unfortunately, they’re just smart enough to bring in people who are otherwise reasonable to say, ‘Oh, that seems really official.,’ and they get tricked into terrible misinformation.

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He noted that protesters use the appealing rallying cry of “freedom.”

But he said: “The most important freedom is the freedom for Canadians who are doing the right things to be able to get through and beyond this pandemic, the freedom to see their loved ones, the freedom to be able to know that their children are in safety while they go to school, that our businesses will be able to get through this pandemic.

“And the way to do that is to trust science, follow public health rules and get vaccinated. This is what standing up for rights and freedoms (looks like). »

Trudeau acknowledged that everyone is frustrated with the pandemic, which has been going on for nearly two years, but most “are not taking to the streets with a level of vitriol that, frankly, does not represent the vast, vast, vast number of Canadians there who have demonstrated a sense of togetherness, of being there for each other that is remarkable and exemplary on the world stage.

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He has repeatedly pointed out that almost 90% of Canadians — as well as almost 90% of truck drivers — have done the right thing by getting vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“People need to know that this protest does not represent truckers or Canadians. This represents a very small group of very angry Canadians who are really trying to unleash themselves.

That’s why, he said, the country needs “reasonable and responsible leadership that focuses on the safety of Canadians.”

He criticized Conservative leader Erin O’Toole for “highlighting welcoming the unvaccinated as a priority”.

O’Toole, who intends to meet some of the truckers, called for calm and a peaceful protest. He also denounced those involved in the convoy who espouse racist and extremist ideas. But he did not call any of his MPs, including Deputy Leader Candice Bergen, his predecessor Andrew Scheer and finance critic Pierre Poilievre, who gave the convoy wholehearted support and joined in accusing Trudeau of being a threat to the freedom of Canadians.

“Having Mr. O’Toole seek political advantage is really not the kind of responsible leadership Canadians need,” Trudeau said.

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