“I need freedom,” read one sign held by a protester in Bolton, Ontario, on Friday. While others repeatedly screamed, “F*** Trudeau!,” and people were seen waving their middle fingers at the prime minister.
The event was first postponed by two hours on Friday, and was eventually canceled over security concerns due to the rowdy crowd.
“Canadians have had a hard year,” Trudeau told reporters after the event was canceled. “And these protesters have also had a hard year. … I know and I feel the anger, the frustration, perhaps the fear.”
“But we must meet that anger with compassion.”
Much of the anger was in response to the Canadian government’s strict approach to vaccines and repeated lockdowns in the country.
Earlier this month, Trudeau said that people would be banned from boarding any plane, train or cruise ship in Canada unless they are fully vaccinated. All government employees are also required to get the vaccine, along with airlines and railways employees. He also announced on Friday that if he’s reelected, a $1 billion program would be established to assist provinces in developing vaccination passport programs.
His doubling-down on strict coronavirus policies comes ahead of the Sept. 20 federal election in the country, but not all Canadians appear satisfied with his approach.
The cancelation of Trudeau’s Bolton event was the third time on Friday alone that he was disrupted by angry protesters, including at St. Phillips Bakery when protesters jeered at him and held signs reading, “Trudeau Treason.” He was also protested by anti-vaccine proponents on Wednesday during a trip to British Columbia.
Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, takes his protective mask off during a news conference on child care in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021. Trudeau will likely call a snap election for September as the pandemic has turned into an opportunity for him to slay a very personal dragon: appear less movie star and more ship captain. Photographer: Christinne Muschi/Bloomberg via Getty Images (Photographer: Christinne Muschi/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
“We’ve never seen anything like this,” one Liberal volunteer told the Toronto Star. “We’re being followed around, and they’re really well-prepared … We’ve been seeing protesters from Markham to B.C. that are the same people.”
Trudeau was also questioned Friday evening if he thought he’s helped politicize vaccines, and responded that Canada needs to rely on science.
“We have to stand strong for what we know to be true: that science is going to help us, that it’s going to be the path forward out of this,” he said.