'The most powerful person in Canada shouldn’t give a sh—': Canada has mixed reaction to Trudeau defending wife from angry heckler

·4 min read

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is attracting mixed reactions from a comment he made after a protestor yelled a vulgar, misogynistic remark about his wife yesterday while campaigning.

The incident took place outside of the Global TV studios in Burnaby, B.C. on Monday, where Trudeau was set to give an interview.

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The lone heckler yelled profanities targeting the leader’s wife and challenged him to a fight. In response, Trudeau asked him, 'Isn’t there a hospital you should be going to bother right now?'

The remark alluded to the anti-vaccination protests that have been taking place in several cities across Canada. Earlier in the day, Trudeau said he would criminalize protests that block access to hospitals and intimidate health-care workers.

The incident with the heckler generated mixed reaction on social media.

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Rising abuse at campaign stops is 'political violence', expert says

When asked by reporters about the verbal attack on Tuesday, Trudeau was not apologetic for his choice of words.

"He went after my family. He said hateful misogynist things about my wife. 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.Justin Trudeau, Liberal Party Leader of Canada

The types of racist and sexist comments that are being hurled at protests during this latest campaign trail tend to illustrate what’s really going on with a particular stream of anti-democratic thinking, says Melanee Thomas, an associate professor of political science at the University of Calgary.

She explains that the gender-based violence in politics literature is clear on how this type of harassment, violent protest, vandalism of campaign signs, disturbance at a candidate's office and online harassment is the most common form of violence.

“It’s called psychological violence,” she says. “The whole point of it is to get people, who are most likely to be racialized women, to stop or make it difficult for them to do political work.”

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In the context of an election campaign, campaigning is democratic political work. And while the right to protest is part of a democracy, Thomas says these types of protest aren’t democratic because they’re meant to stop politicians from doing their work.

“The question is, when you are faced with somebody who’s engaged in anti-democratic action, that counts as political violence, and they’re using misogyny as part of it, how do we expect to respond,” she asks.

Thomas adds that while the politicians currently campaigning are denouncing these types of protests, they aren’t addressing the motivation behind it.

The tone of the protests is much different from the last election in 2019, because it pre-dated COVID, and the conspiratorial thinking around vaccines wasn't present. However, there was a clear tone when it came to the candidates and the slant to certain campaign messaging.

“There was this idea where if you weren’t on my partisan team, then you were my enemy,” says Thomas. “It’s an existential threat if (the other party wins). That kind of polarized partisan narrative is really problematic.”