‘An insult to memory and truth:’ Trudeau condemns ‘hateful rhetoric’ at Parliament protests

By CityNews Staff

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the actions of some members of the ongoing Parliament Hill protests in Ottawa on Monday.

It marked the Prime Minister’s first news conference after days of trucker gridlock, reports of aggressive behaviour, and numerous calls to replace his government.

“Freedom of expression, assembly, and association are cornerstones of democracy,” Trudeau said. “Nazi symbolism, racist imagery and desecration of war memorials are not.”

“It is an insult to memory and truth. Hate can never be the answer.”

The so-called ‘freedom convoy’ is ongoing with rows of trucks still lined up in front of the Parliament building following the large weekend rally. Residents in Ottawa are still being advised to steer clear of downtown and several buildings remain closed.

A number of criminal investigations regarding actions that took place during the weekend protests are underway, including the desecration of monuments. Photos surfaced of a flag with a swastika being waved during the rally and staff at an Ottawa homeless shelter say they were harassed by protesters on Saturday who were demanding meals from the shelter’s kitchen.

“We are not intimidated by those who hurl insults and abuse at small business workers and steal food from the homeless,” said Trudeau. “For those responsible for this behaviour, it needs to stop.”

When asked if he would speak with protest organizers Trudeau says he has chosen not to go anywhere near protests that have expressed “hateful rhetoric,” and “a disrespect to science and frontline health workers” and the majority of truckers.

The prime minister held the news conference from an undisclosed location in the capital region, after he and his family reportedly had to be moved for security reasons. Trudeau was already in isolation when he confirmed he had tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday morning.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford also condemned some of the actions from the weekend rally on Monday.

“The right to peaceful protest is core to our Canadian identity. I was extremely disturbed, however, to see some individuals desecrate our most sacred monuments and wave swastikas and other symbols of hate and intolerance this weekend,” Ford said in a statement.

“That has no place in Ontario or Canada. Not now. Not ever.”

Residents of the capital were again told to avoid travelling to the city centre on Monday as trucks snarled numerous roads. Several city bus routes were redirected to avoid the area around the Hill, and the nearby Rideau Centre shopping mall remained closed after shutting down early on Saturday.

Police redoubled their calls to avoid the downtown area in a statement issued Sunday night.

“Police are aware that many demonstrators have announced their intention to stay in place,” it read. “This will continue to cause major traffic, noise and safety issues in the downtown core.”

The force also estimated the cost of the massive policing effort at more than $800,000 per day.

Trudeau will be virtually attending question period as the House of Commons resumes Monday. Public Safety Minster Marco Mendicino says the Sergeant-at-Arms has issued security guidance to all MPs and staff.

“I can’t emphasize this enough, our number one priority here is to ensure public safety,” Mendicino said.

A lot of the anger at the weekend protests are directed at the prime minister and the federal Liberal government. The Parliamentary Protective Service tells CityNews it’ll be monitoring the protest and adjusting their security posture as required.

Parliamentarians, businesses and school administrators were left wondering when the usual rhythm of the frazzled national capital would resume.

Alexandra Maheux, a spokeswoman for government House leader Mark Holland, said the ongoing protest is not interfering with parliamentary business.

“We have important work to accomplish for Canadians in Parliament, and we’re looking forward to getting this done and delivering results,” Maheux said late Sunday.

She noted that MPs have the flexibility to work in a hybrid House in this sitting, which remains in effect until June, to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

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