O’Toole and Singh speak out against aggressive protesters continuing Trudeau campaign

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OTTAWA – Erin O’Toole warned supporters on Saturday that they are not welcome in the Conservative campaign if they engage in harassment and intimidation of other party leaders.

The leader’s warning came a day after several Conservative campaign workers were spotted among a crowd of loud protesters who forced the cancellation of a Liberal event featuring Justin Trudeau in Bolton, Ont.

At least four volunteers from local Conservative MP Kyle Seeback were pictured among the angry and obscenity-spitting crowd, wearing blue “Team Seeback” t-shirts.

Seeback released a statement Friday night saying these people are no longer welcome to his campaign.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh also condemned the protesters, saying no one should have to cancel an event for security reasons.

O’Toole insisted on Saturday that there was no room in the Conservative campaign for negativity.

“We are running a positive campaign for the future of this country,” he said during a stopover in Fredericton.

“I strongly condemn all forms of harassment and protest as we have seen. We are a democracy, we should have a healthy and respectful debate of ideas and we have no time for people who bring negativity to the countryside.”

O’Toole called on everyone to “put the country and our democracy first” and said this was the behavior he expected from “every member of our team, from the leader to the first time someone else. a fact of volunteering “.

Trudeau has been harassed by protesters throughout the campaign, most of them voicing furious opposition to the mandatory vaccinations, masks and lockdowns that have been put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

An event scheduled for Bolton on Friday night was canceled because, Trudeau said later, the RCMP determined they could not keep participants safe.

Questions have arisen about who is potentially organizing and funding the protesters.

A man who showed up to heckle Trudeau at an event in Hamilton earlier in the week, showed up the next day at a Trudeau event in Surrey, British Columbia. leader across the country, he said, “Maybe.”

The Liberal campaign has avoided making public the specific location of many Trudeau events, in part to limit the number of their own supporters who show up during the pandemic, but also to limit opportunities for protesters to organize.

But protesters appear to be rallying through social media, using the Twitter hashtag #hateclub and Facebook groups such as “Ontario Protests and Freedom to Assemble Information Page”.

The purported “administrator” of this page is a woman from Barrie, Ont., Who posted a message Friday detailing the time and location of Trudeau’s event in Bolton and asking if anyone “was going to heckle him.”

Zelda Orser said in an interview on Saturday that her role was strictly to post a screenshot of a notice that had been posted elsewhere on social media about the Bolton event. She said she was temporarily managing the Ontario protest page because the author, Naz Obredor, was banned by Facebook for 30 days. The page, she said, is meant simply to educate people on various protests against the pandemic restrictions.

She said the page is not meant to be partisan.

“I didn’t attend (the Bolton event). I didn’t organize it… If people want to go out and act like idiots, it’s up to them,” Orser said.

A person using the hashtag .hateclub wondered on Twitter if anyone was going to punch Trudeau in his “communist face.”

Some Liberal supporters on Twitter linked that sort of sentiment on Saturday to Tory social media ads, which feature a boxer slamming through the glass with the slogan “fight back for Canada’s takeover.”

But O’Toole, who rejected Trudeau’s calls for mandatory vaccinations for everyone in federally regulated workplaces and a federal fund to help provinces create vaccine passports, rejected suggestions that he shares some responsibility for igniting protesters.

He reiterated that he encourages all Canadians to get vaccinated, but respects their personal choice.

“We will always respect the people who make their personal health decisions,” he said, adding that he will similarly honor the right of provinces to decide whether or not to create so-called passports that would allow people to show proof of vaccination.

At least some of the protesters appear to share their views with supporters of former US President Donald Trump, apparently importing many of the conspiracy theories prevalent among his supporters that led to last January’s violent assault on the US Capitol.

In a live video feed of the Bolton event, protesters can be heard calling Trudeau a criminal, communist, murderer and pedophile and berating police for being “pedophile protectors.”

In the video, posted to Facebook by a self-identified American, a woman can be heard saying that if Trudeau wins the election, it will be because it was “rigged.”

Despite their stated concern about child exploitation, some of the protesters were accompanied by their young children and can be heard laughing when a little girl shouts “F — Trudeau”, echoing the songs of the adults around her.

In another social media video, shot during a Friday appearance by Trudeau in Nobleton, Ont., A protester can be seen yelling at the parents of a toddler wearing a mask. He calls it “sickening”, while a woman in the background can be heard screaming about “child abuse” and “child trafficking”.

Earlier this week, at Trudeau’s event in Surrey, one protester shouted at Trudeau: “We’re going to end you” while another shouted that no one wants him to breathe.

The number and vigilance of police officers in Trudeau’s security service has visibly increased during this campaign. The Liberals declined to comment on the security provisions.

The RCMP, which are responsible for the security of the Prime Minister, said in a statement on Saturday that throughout the campaign, the force “undertakes risk and threat assessments on an ongoing basis and adapts its security posture accordingly. . However, from a security perspective, we will not disclose this information. “

The mounted police added: “Public order is the responsibility of the competent local police. The police will respect the rights of individuals to freedom of expression and demonstration in a legal manner. in an appropriate and professional manner in accordance with the law.

Trudeau is not the only politician to be targeted.

Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel-Garner released a statement on Saturday saying politicians, especially women, are frequently the targets of “violent language, threats and abuse.”

In the past two weeks, Rempel Garner has said she has been chased down the streets by two different men with cameras demanding her response to “conspiracy theories.” On Friday evening, she said that she and her husband were “accosted by a tall man who approached us aggressively” while having dinner at a restaurant.

“I also received a death threat from someone who called my office in states of increasing verbal abuse with the days,” she said.

“This meant that I could not announce the location of my campaign office. I cannot attend public events where my participation was announced. I had to tighten security measures. I am nervous and I am scared when I’m getting in and out of my car, and going out in public in general. “

Rempel Garner suggested that legislation might be needed to improve the ability to prosecute “criminal harassment”.

“A line has to be drawn,” she said.

Singh also spoke out against the toxicity of Friday’s protests against Trudeau.

“No one should have to cancel their events where we have students, we have young people, we have volunteers, we have organizers, no one should have to cancel an event because they are worried about a danger to them. the safety of people going out to a political event, ”he said during a campaign stop in Sudbury, Ont.

“It should never have happened. And it is wrong.”

Singh at least partially attributed the increasingly threatening behavior of protesters to the pandemic.

“Yes, there is definitely a problem… with people who may be feeling anxiety, maybe worry. They are in a precarious situation, the pandemic has been difficult and so that could be a reason. which people feel tense and frustrated about, “he said.

But Singh said he was encouraged that the “vast majority” of Canadians are united in getting vaccinated and want to “take care of each other.”

He reiterated his call for a national vaccination passport.

Trudeau took a day off the election campaign on Saturday. But the Liberals have unveiled two new ads, in one of which the Liberal leader doubles down on his criticism of O’Toole’s position on mandatory vaccinations.

“I think vaccines should be mandatory for air and train travel because that’s how we will protect our children and get back to normal,” he said in the ad, which features a clip of Trudeau receiving his own jab.

“Conservative politicians say they would abandon our plan and not even demand that their own candidates get vaccinated. Now is not the time to give up on doing the right thing.”

Shortly after the Bolton event was canceled on Friday, Trudeau told reporters he had never seen such a level of intense anger before.

“I think that’s something that Canadians, all of us, need to think about, because that’s not who we are,” he said, adding that everyone has had a tough year and that “we must face anger with compassion”.

Federal elections are scheduled for September 20.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on August 28, 2021.

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