In the summer of 1968, then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was accosted with rocks and bottles while at a St. Jean Baptiste Day parade in Montreal. But rather than retreat from the violently dissenting Quebec separatists’ projectiles, he stood his ground, and in doing so sent a message of political strength across the nation.
Now, over half a century later, Pierre’s son and Canada’s current PM, Justin Trudeau, may be getting a similar chance to show resolve in the face of literal stone chuckers after being sprayed with gravel by protesting anti-vaxxers in London, Ontario, yesterday.
The prime minister confirmed at a campaign stop in Montreal today that he and a member of his security team were struck by some of the rocks, but downplayed the event, saying that the stones might have hit his shoulder, and comparing the experience to a time he had pumpkin seeds lobbed at him.
OK, so “gravel” is not quite as dangerous as “rocks and bottles,” but let’s let Junior have his moment, shall we?
Trudeau described the alleged gravel throwers as “anti-vaxxer mobs” who were “practically foaming at the mouth,” but says that such behaviour will not disrupt his election campaign. Today, he seemed to use the event and the questions that followed to call for more empathy for frontline workers (and to get out and vote for his Liberal party, obviously).
“No one should be doing their jobs under the threat of violence or acts that put them in danger,” Trudeau said at a campaign stop in Montreal.
“There are healthcare workers across the country who are getting hassled and intimidated and bullied as they are going into 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.”
But it is how things are being done in parts of Canada, like most of the major centres in B.C., where anti-vaccine protesters have been demonstrating in front of healthcare facilities.
“Those are the people that I think about,” Trudeau said. “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. Come on.”
Canadians are set to head to the polls on September 30 for the snap federal election.