Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre slammed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his liberal party in the House of Commons on Monday after Trudeau and members of his parties defamed the truckers' protest in Ottawa as racist. Poilievre called out the many "racist" actions taken by Liberals in recent years, and noted that these actions do not speak for the entire party.
"Just because the Prime Minister dressed up in racist costumes so many times, he can't remember them all," Poilievre said, "doesn't mean every single Liberal is a racist. Just because the Prime Minister had tried to help a corporation avoid prosecution after it stole from some of Africa's poorest people, doesn't mean all Liberals are racist. Just because about a half dozen liberal MPs who are racial minorities complained about his treatment of them does not mean that all Liberals are racist. That is guilt by association. Why doesn't the Prime Minister opt instead for personal responsibility?"
After a response from House of Commons Leader Mark Holland, Poilievre said "I agree we should always call out evil symbols and the individuals who are individually responsible for putting them up. I remember a January 18 January 2018 event where the Prime Minister stared straight at a swastika and instead of condemning it said 'thank you for coming, sir.' We on this side condemn evil symbols whenever they are used. I do respect that member. I just wish his government would respect of 1000s of people fighting for their livelihoods right now. We're trying to do the best to get this country back on track."
Poilievre has come out in support of the truckers' protest, called the Freedom Convoy, some of whom have promised to stay in Ottawa until Trudeau's vaccine mandates are lifted or Trudeau resigns. The convoy leaders have said that current Conservative leader Erin O'Toole should step aside and give the top spot to Poilievre.
Neither Trudeau nor members of his Liberal party have backed the protestors, instead offering condemnation of their actions. One Ottawa councillor suggested that the money raised by truckers in their GoFundMe should be seized. This after Trudeau has publicly offered his support for the truckers earlier in the pandemic for keeping Canadians' grocery shelves stocked.
Trudeau has mandated that truckers be vaccinated, and while a vast majority of truckers are vaccinated, the protestors are opposed to mandates to curb a contagion when their job is to drive, alone, in a truck.
Over the past few days, as truckers and their supporters amassed in Ottawa, Trudeau first said he was quarantining after one of his children tested positive for Covid, then was secreted away from the capitol to an undisclosed location amid "security concerns." On Monday, he announced that he had tested positive for Covid and would be in isolation, and then slammed the truckers as racist.
"I know you're wondering about what you saw in our capital city this weekend," said Trudeau, and quoted Irwin Cotler, saying "'Freedom of expression, assembly, and association, are cornerstones of democracy. But Nazi symbolism, racist imagery, and desecration of war memorials are not. It's an insult to memory and truth,'" Trudeau told press on Monday morning.
No evidence emerged to suggest that the racist flags were linked to the truckers' convoy. In fact, independent conservative news outlets have offered thousands of dollars to identify the individuals flying them. One confrontation between a masked individual with a Confederate and protestors resulted in those protestors forcing the individual away from the area. Symbols of hate were not tolerated at the protest.
"Hate can never be the answer. Over the past few days, Canadians were shocked, and frankly, disgusted by the behaviour displayed by some people protesting in our nation's capital," Trudeau said. An Indigenous clan mother blessed the protest over the weekend.
Holland replied that the protestors should go home. "I would ask that their point has been made. It's time to go home and do it a different way than continuing to lock down this city and continuing to do what's happening. It is deeply disturbing for Canadians to see the way that this city our symbols are being treated and I would ask the Conservatives to also join with us to they go home and let's do this responsibly. Responsibly."
"They've shown no respect for the people," Poilievre said. "This country right now is liking a raw nerve and the Prime Minister is jumping up and down on it again and again. With his inflammatory rhetoric. We're talking about people who have 14-year-old kids that are suicidal after two years of lockdowns. I just spoke to a waitress whose business was wiped out by lockdowns. I'm talking to the truckers who've been when serving food on our plates throughout this and these are the very people, on his hard working, shirt-off-your-back type of people that this Prime Minister keeps attacking."
Holland attacked Poilievre's tone of voice, and suggested that the "rhetoric" and "language" be "dialed down."
"I couldn't agree more," Poilievre said, addressing the Speaker, and giving a glimpse of what the truckers and their supporters have been advocating for. "I was out at an overpass as the truckers went by. And what I saw we're cheerful, patriotic, optimistic Canadians who want for freedom back and want their livelihoods back and they're standing up for their fellow Canadians. The 60 percent of families who fear they can't feed themselves. The 28-year-old kid living in mom's basement because he can't afford a home. The small businessman wiped out by endless lockdowns by incompetent politicians. These are the people that are standing up and fighting for their livelihoods and their freedom. Why won't the government finally stand with them?"
Holland suggested that the "enemy" isn't "across the aisle," but is the pandemic, and he pressed for vaccinations, saying the goal "is ending this pandemic and getting everybody to get vaccinated and to move forward in a way where the concerns that he's talking about being, affected by global crisis, means that they are supported. This is a time of collective trauma. It requires us to be compassionate, to work with another and understand that our common enemy is the virus and not one another."
Holland said that it was the pandemic that Canadians needed to fight against, and not restrictions from the Trudeau government. Holland's comments come on the same day that polling shows an majority of Canadians are ready to move on from pandemic restrictions altogether.