Erin O'Toole plans to meet with truckers protesting vaccine mandates in Ottawa
Conservative leader also condemns participants pushing for 'division' and 'hatred'
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole said Thursday he will meet with truckers taking part in a protest against vaccine mandates set for this weekend on Parliament Hill — but does not plan to meet with the actual organizers of the convoy.
"I will be meeting with truckers, I will be meeting with parts of the convoy. I will try and do it outside of the Hill core so it can be done effectively," O'Toole told an evening news conference.
The protest, initially billed as a demonstration by Canadian truckers against vaccination rules in their industry, has expanded in recent days to include people with much broader grievances against the federal government and its handling of the pandemic.
Some of those organizing the protest have expressed hopes of dissolving the government upon their arrival in Ottawa.
"There are other groups using the plight of truckers to bring division, hatred, and we need to call that out and stamp it out," O'Toole said, later repeating a call for Canadian politicians to "lower the temperature" around the protest.
WATCH | O'Toole on his plans to meet with protesting truckers
But the Conservative Leader also voiced opposition to Liberal policy choices. He said the government's insistence on making vaccines mandatory is unjustly causing people to lose their jobs.
In a tweet posted just minutes after his news conference ended, O'Toole said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals want to "smear and demonize" truckers.
Truckers were our heroes at the start of the pandemic.<br><br>Now Trudeau and his Liberal allies want to smear and demonize them. Let’s get the truth out. 👇 <a href="https://t.co/xwkDft5mP6">pic.twitter.com/xwkDft5mP6</a>—@erinotoole
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has denounced the convoy and accused its organizers of voicing "inflammatory, divisive and hateful comments."
Trudeau has called the protesters a "fringe minority." He is self-isolating until at least Tuesday after being exposed to COVID-19.
Representatives of the Canadian trucking industry have estimated that more than 20,000 truckers could be sidelined by the mandate requiring that truckers entering Canada be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The U.S. government has introduced the same rule — meaning it is now impossible for unvaccinated truckers to cross the border in either direction.
MPs warned that protesters may come to their homes
Members of Parliament were also warned on Thursday that some protest participants are trying to find politicians' home addresses.
An email sent by the House of Commons' sergeant-at-arms advised MPs to avoid interactions with protesters if any do show up at constituency offices or private residences.
Sergeant-at-Arms Patrick McDonell noted that media outlets have reported that some protesters have sought MPs' home addresses.
The convoy crew have told me I will be jailed, charged with war crimes and sent to hell.<br>Now we are being warned they are targeting our staff and our homes. <br>I have work to do in Ottawa and my staff are there to help people through this pandemic.<br>I will not be intimidated.—@CharlieAngusNDP
"Do not get involved and go somewhere safe," reads a portion of the email McDonell's office sent to MPs. "Avoid physical altercations, even if provoked."