Canadians are going through “tough times,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday — but “angry” protests, he added, should remain peaceful despite those difficulties.
He made the comment after footage emerged on social media of the prime minister being swarmed by a small but vocal group of demonstrators in Hamilton, Ont., on Tuesday night, where the Liberal cabinet retreat is taking place.
Security guards and police pushed away the demonstrators as they hurled insults at Trudeau, calling him a “tyrant,” demanding his resignation, and shouting profanities.
The cause they were protesting was not made immediately clear in the footage.
“It’s really, really important in our democracy that people can express their disagreement or displeasure or even anger with various governments. That’s really important,” Trudeau said when asked about the incident on Wednesday morning.
“At the same time, our police services and institutions will ensure that those protests remain peaceful and law-abiding. That’s something that really matters.”
Canada will “always ensure” people are “free to express” their perspectives, Trudeau added.
“A handful of angry people do not define what Hamilton is or what democracy is,” he said.
Harassment and threats against public figures have become a growing problem across Canada.
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Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino warned over the summer that the growing frequency of harassment against Canadian public figures poses a “threat to democracy” that needs to be taken seriously.
In late August, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was cornered outside an elevator in Grande Prairie, Alta., as a man hurled profanities at her while voicing his opposition to COVID-19 health measures.