Politics

Trudeau lashes out at protester who used slur about his wife

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was met with more angry protesters Monday, including one man who challenged the prime minister to a fight and hurled a vulgar remark about his wife.

Liberal leader responds: 'Isn’t there a hospital you should be going to bother right now?'

A lone protester heckles Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau as he takes part in an interview with Global reporter Neetu Garcha in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday. The interview was supposed to take place outside but had to be moved inside because of the protester. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was met with more angry protesters Monday, including one man who challenged him to a fight and hurled a slur about his wife.

Trudeau pulled his mask down to yell at the heckler, who was pacing back and forth, yelling profanities and waving his arms outside the Global News studio in Burnaby, B.C., where the Liberal leader had arrived to do an interview, according to footage captured by Global News.

"Isn't there a hospital you should be going to bother right now?" Trudeau said sarcastically to the demonstrator.

His comment came just hours after Trudeau announced a plan to make it a criminal offence for demonstrators to block access to hospitals and intimidate health-care workers.

The verbal exchange was also on the same day as a series of protests were staged outside hospitals and medical centres, including in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Charlottetown, Montreal, Halifax and Ottawa. Crowds varied in size from over a dozen to more than 100 people.

The demonstrations were organized by two Ontario nurses who have promoted conspiracy theories about COVID-19. The organizers also attended rallies in the U.S. for those who think the pandemic is a "fraud."

WATCH |Trudeau to heckler: 'Isn't there a hospital you should be going to bother?' 

Trudeau to heckler: 'Isn't there a hospital you should be going to bother?'

14 days ago
0:34
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau can be heard responding to a man who shouted obscenities at him as the Liberal leader arrived for a media interview in Vancouver on Monday. 0:34

The protester was yelling profanities at Trudeau, who was supposed to sit for an interview outside Global News; after discussions with RCMP the interview moved inside. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau was not present when the protester made the offensive remark.

When asked Tuesday if he regrets his response, Trudeau said he has a thick skin but attacks on his family cross the line.

"He went after my family. He said hateful, misogynistic things about my wife," he said.

"I signed up for this. My family believes deeply in what I'm doing and put up with an awful lot. But everyone has limits. I will always be there to try to push back when someone crosses those lines."

WATCH | Trudeau discusses heckler

'He went after my family' — Trudeau discusses his reaction to heckling protester

14 days ago
1:20
The CBC's Ashley Burke asked Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau about his reaction to the protester and whether he should have used more restraint. 1:20

Trudeau's responses to anti-vaccination protesters during the pandemic have ranged from dismissive to sympathetic. During repeated attempts to disrupt his campaign events, Trudeau has responded in his speeches by making a joke or telling them to get vaccinated. 

At a campaign stop in Quebec earlier on Monday, Trudeau thanked a People's Party of Canada supporter for helping him make his point. As he was asked by a reporter if he was concerned that PPC Leader Maxime Bernier's rhetoric was inciting violence, the demonstrator started cheering. 

"Thank you, sir, for making my point," Trudeau said. 

Speaking Tuesday morning, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said heckling is something that is going to happen on the campaign trail.

"But what is not allowed, what is completely wrong, is for anyone to impede the work of a health-care worker, to stop them from going in to save lives, to stop the patients that need to go in to get care," Singh said during a stop in Toronto, while a woman shouted at him 

"[Trudeau] shouldn't have been joking about that because that is dangerous."

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau responded to a protestor who yelled an offensive slur about his wife, by saying "Isn’t there a hospital you should be going to bother right now?” (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

'Meet anger with compassion'

When protests began disrupting the early days of his campaign, the Liberal leader said he would "meet anger with compassion."

After an August campaign stop in Bolton, Ont., was cancelled over security concerns, Trudeau said, "I know we have to work even harder to be there for each other, to support each other."

Trudeau thanked his supporters for continuing to tolerate the protesters, and said he would begin ignoring them as a tactic.

"I won't respond to anger with anger, [I will] just ignore them," Trudeau said on Sept. 6.

"Even at the risk of knowing that people thought I might be waving at those anti-vaxxers who I was basically ignoring, because I won't respond to anger with anger, just ignore them."

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau waves from his campaign bus after speaking to media near Brampton, Ont., regarding a cancelled campaign event in Bolton, Ont., on Aug. 27. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Trudeau pitched targeted criminal penalties for demonstrators outside hospitals

Trudeau has been using the issue of vaccines to try to drive a wedge between his party and the Conservatives. On Monday he sharpened his attack line against Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole on the issue by accusing him of giving in to anti-vaxx fringe elements of his caucus. 

Earlier that day, Trudeau, Grégoire Trudeau and their son Hadrien met with a small group of health-care workers in Vancouver. Trudeau then publicly denounced protesters who verbally harassed workers like them on their way into work. 

"It's not okay, any day, to know that a nurse going into a late shift, crossing a parking lot, might be afraid there could be someone there to spit on her or shout obscenities at her," said Trudeau at his announcement. "That's not okay."

Trudeau announced that if re-elected he would make it a criminal offence for people to block access to health-care buildings including vaccination and testing clinics along with abortion clinics. As well, he said, he would make it illegal to intimidate or threaten any health-care professional carrying out professional duties.

Trudeau was asked if this law was necessary, since it's already against the law to utter threats or assault someone. Trudeau said there are specific protections in the Criminal Code for journalists and those in the justice system, and he wants the same for health-care workers.

"It's unfortunate that we got there but we think that these people deserve our highest level of protection because they have done so much for all of us over these past 18 months," Trudeau said, while making a series of stops in B.C. on Monday as his campaign ramps up for the final week.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ashley Burke

Reporter

Ashley Burke is a senior reporter with CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. Have a story idea? Email her at ashley.burke@cbc.ca

With files from Thomas Daigle

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