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.
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.
Justin Trudeau is explaining how he's always gonna be okay with attacking him(yesterday's protester)...but don't ever attack my wife.
I'm good with that.
Hands off family.
— kris meloche (@krismeloche) September 14, 2021
"How dare Trudeau defend his wife with words?!?! What is this world coming to!"
— Trevor Purdy (@TrevorsIdeas) September 14, 2021
Liberals are like, "Trudeau had to insult that guy, he insulted his wife!"
No, the most powerful person in Canada shouldn't give a shit about petty things.
It showed he breaks when he can't control his environment. Emphasized by getting angry at a journalist a little later.
— Stephen Punwasi 🌋 🚀 (@StephenPunwasi) September 14, 2021
I'm not a fan of Trudeau, but he shouldn't have to explain himself for vigorously standing his ground against the complete lack of class from vicious morons who spew insults at his wife and mother of his children.
— André Dalpé (@ardalpe) September 14, 2021
I’m ashamed of Canada’s media. This ‘person’ called PM Trudeau’s wife Sophie a whore and Trudeau rightly defended her. Our media chose not to support our PM but instead attacked him for using sarcasm. This is appalling behaviour by our media and all Canadians should be outraged.
— June Hughes (@JuneHug45685892) September 14, 2021
I agree with Trudeau, leave his and other politicians families out of it. I think insulting his wife is crossing the line and he has a right to to push back. I certainly would.
— Patrick (@tallcolemansdad) September 14, 2021
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.”
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.”