Trudeau to truckers: ‘Behavior on display this weekend does not represent you’

Freedom Convoy protesters continued to line Ottawa streets for a third straight day in their fight against pandemic-related public health measures on Monday, but they won’t be meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In a mid-day press conference, Trudeau cited images including swastikas, hateful rhetoric, and abuse hurled at business owners during the weekend protests among the reasons he won’t meet with the group.

Thousands of protesters crowded into downtown Ottawa, protesting public health restrictions. (Photo: Madalyn Howitt)

“The behavior on display this weekend does not represent you,” he said in a message to Canada’s truckers.

“To the nearly 90% of truckers across the country who’ve gotten vaccinated, who continue working hard to keep us fed and keep our economy moving, thank you.”

But Trudeau also faced a call during Question Period to meet with members of the trucking industry affected by federal regulations.

“Canadian manufacturers, the [Canadian] Federation of Independent Business, the Chamber of Commerce, the Conservative opposition, thousands of truckers, for over a month have proposed solutions to the trucking shortage in Canada and the supply chain crisis,” said Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole. “The prime minister has ignored this crisis, and even worse he calls names for people that are raising these very issues.”

“The best way through this pandemic is to get people vaccinated. That’s how we end the disruptions to the supply chain caused by this global pandemic,” Trudeau said.

Canada has since Jan. 15 required border-crossing truck drivers to be vaccinated against Covid-19. A U.S. mandate that requires the same thing came into force Jan. 22.

Trudeau has been critical of politicians who have aligned themselves with protesters.

“This is a moment for responsible leaders to think carefully about where they stand and who they stand with,” he said during the press conference.

Condemning swastikas

Political and industry leaders universally condemned those protesters who were displaying symbols such as swastikas and a Confederate flag, dancing on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and hanging an anti-mandate sign and inverted Canadian flag on a monument to Terry Fox.

“The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the National War Memorial are sacred sites for Canadians. The desecration of these sites was a disgusting act and is a dishonor to those soldiers who have given their lives for our country and those Canadian soldiers who continue to fight for our freedom today,” the Canadian Trucking Alliance said. “Terry Fox is a national hero. The defacing of the Terry Fox monument is another disgusting act to the memory of one of the greatest Canadians in our history.”

The alliance itself is responding with donations to the Terry Fox Foundation and Soldier On Fund.

“Today, some people in Ottawa stood and parked their cars on the tomb of the unknown soldier and defaced a statue commemorating Terry Fox,” said Mike Millian, president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC). “These individuals do not represent the trucking industry or Canadians. They should be ashamed of themselves. The trucking community does not stand with or for the actions of a few disrespectful individuals who act in such a disrespectful and disgraceful manner.”

“Confederate flags, swastikas are symbols of extreme hate. They do not belong in our Canada,” said Shelley Walker, CEO of the Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada. “The trucking community does not stand with or for the actions of a few disrespectful individuals who act in such a disrespectful and disgraceful manner.”

Liberals were not alone among political parties to criticize the actions.

“Our country was built by Canadians who sacrificed and inspired for their generation and for generations to come. These individuals include Terry Fox, who ran across our country to raise awareness of cancer, and Nathan Cirillo who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” O’Toole tweeted.

“I support the right to peacefully protest but that should not be confused with blatant disrespect for the men and women who have served, inspired, and protected our country. The individuals desecrating these memorials should be ashamed and their behavior undermines the brave Canadians who have sacrificed for our country.”

“The right to peaceful protest is core to our Canadian identity,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford. “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. That has no place in Ontario or Canada. Not now. Not ever.”

“The display of racism and anti-Semitism we witnessed by the flying of Confederate flags and Nazi swastikas is vile, violent and hateful,” tweeted NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. “MPs who attended and failed to confront it should look into a mirror and ask themselves what kind of Canada they’re building for our children.”

Trudeau also called on protesters who feel uncomfortable in the face of such actions to raise their voices. “Join with your fellow Canadians. Be courageous and speak out. Do not stand for or with intolerance and hate.”