Sabrina Almeida

Justin Trudeau being pelted with gravel at a campaign stop in London, Ontario at the beginning of this week shows an ugly and unfamiliar side of Canada that I’m not comfortable with.

After all, Canadians have been known to be polite and respectful to a fault. We always hold the door open for people, mind our Ps and Qs, and say sorry even when we don’t need to. We don’t throw stones at people we don’t like or at politicians who might be forcing us to do things we don’t want to do!!!

However, escalating violence arising from an intolerance of another person’s views or beliefs seems to be slowly chipping away at our legendary peaceful status.

Some Canadians aren’t surprised at all by the gravel pelting incident given the angry protests that greeted Trudeau at many of his campaign stops. He was previously forced to cancel an event in Bolton due to security concerns from protestors.

Others just don’t seem to care! 

A few even think that physically violent disagreements are acceptable. But what’s worse is when social influencers endorse this line of thinking.

A few hours before the attack on Trudeau, Marc Emery who is the People’s Party candidate for London North-Center tweeted that the Liberal leader was vile and deserved “a much worse fate”.

“I’m thinking [Benito] Mussolini” who was killed via a shooting gallery, he reportedly wrote on Twitter.

Although Emery deleted his tweet and posted a sarcastic note of apology, the inflammatory nature of his comment cannot be minimized. In fact, his ideology is so scary that it should be grounds for removing his name from the election ballot not just now, but even in the future. Electing politicians with his bent of mind to office is like voting for a replay of the US Capitol siege on Canadian soil.

While many of us are guilty of using violent phrases in everyday speech, being loose-lipped on social media can magnify discord, incite violence, and create mayhem! It’s not okay! 

Emery’s tweet should have been sanctioned by Twitter just as several of Trump’s hateful posts were. 

The lack of reaction to the violence by some of the general public points to a growing appetite or indifference towards it which also doesn’t bode well for Canada. Many of us have immigrated from countries where such violent displays are normal which might explain the apathy. Nonetheless this is not acceptable in a country which affords us the right to “peaceful” demonstrations. Violence has never been and can never be the solution to any problem!

While the Global Peace Index (GPI) for 2021 listed Canada among the ten most peaceful countries in the world, we have slipped four spots from our sixth place position both in 2020 and 2019 .

The GPI used indicators such as internal and external conflicts, relations with neighbouring countries, and political instability. It also looked at the number of jailed persons, homicides and violent crime, the impact of terrorism, and the ease of access to small arms and light weapons.

Escalating gun violence, homicides, hate crimes and violent demonstrations might account for our recent drop in status. (The worst we’ve ever been, was fourteenth in 2010, while our best was fourth place in 2012.)

It’s not acceptable to harass health care workers going in to do their job because you’re opposed to vaccinations.  It’s even more deplorable to prevent people from accessing treatment at hospitals during protests. Being apathetic towards these violent displays can embolden them.

While Trudeau brushed off the gravel attack initially, he later acknowledged he was hit while drawing a parallel to the Capitol siege and denouncing protests that targeted health care workers and institutions. 

All the other leaders were quick to condemn the pelting incident as well. But Maxime Bernier, who also had an egg smashed on his head at a campaign stop, should have walked the talk and withdrawn Emery’s candidature.

Some national security experts believe that the far-right movement has used the pandemic to integrate itself within the anti-vaxxers and that has led to the violent protests. That explains but does not justify it. Those guilty of inciting or committing such acts must be punished. 

The London police are investigating the Trudeau incident and one hopes that the charges laid will deter others from following suit. 

Violent demonstrations  cannot become a way of life in Canada!!!

 

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