A visit from Canada’s prime minister should be a time for celebration, but when Justin Trudeau was in the Okanagan Valley on July 18, the mood was less than jubilant.
I was at one of his stops that day, when he toured a cherry orchard in Summerland.
While those at the farm were happy to have him visit, what I noticed more than anything was the level of security.
At a farm in a quiet agricultural community, RCMP and security personnel were on guard to ensure Canada’s prime minister was kept safe.
I understand the reason for the heightened security. Among some in Canada, there is a seething level of hate towards Trudeau and the Liberal Party. These people do not mince words when they speak about their dissatisfaction and disgust with the present government.
At times, their statements move into the realm of threats.
Earlier this year, in late May, Trudeau cancelled plans to appear at a Liberal fundraiser in British Columbia because of concerns about the possible escalation of an aggressive protest.
Days before this cancellation, protesters were verbally aggressive with Trudeau’s RCMP protective detail in Saskatoon.
Between Feb. 5 and March 23, there were 26 threats logged against Trudeau and eight of his cabinet ministers. Last September, Trudeau was pelted with gravel during a campaign stop in London, Ont.
At times, the level of hate towards members of Canada’s federal government has moved beyond threats.
In July 2020, a man rammed a gate of Rideau Hall in Ottawa before arming himself and heading towards Trudeau’s home in Ottawa. The man is now serving a six-year prison sentence.
Anger at the federal government did not begin when Trudeau became prime minister in 2015, and it is not directed exclusively at members of any of Canada’s political parties.
In October 2014, while Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper was still in office, a shooter fatally shot an honour guard at point blank range at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. The assailant was later shot dead at Parliament’s Centre Block.
These violent incidents and threats against Trudeau and other elected officials do not fit with Canada’s reputation of being a polite nation of easygoing people. The extreme outbursts are notable exceptions and do not represent everyday behaviour in this country.
Still, such incidents should not happen at all. Under our democratic system in Canada, not everyone will like the decisions made in the House of Commons, and some will not like the prime minister or other elected officials. That’s fine. As Canadians we have the right to disagree with those elected to make decisions.
Even if one takes issue with decisions made in Parliament, our democratic system is still the envy of many around the world.
The 2021 Democracy Index, compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, ranked Canada 12th out of 167 countries for the strength of its democracy. Canada was one of only 20 countries classified as a full democracy.
Freedom House, an American organization researching governments around the world, has given Canada a score of 98 out of 100 for its political rights and civil liberties.
If Canadians do not like the present government, there are regular opportunities to make changes. Our next federal election will be held on or before Oct. 20, 2025. That’s plenty of time to find new candidates to represent us in the next federal government.
John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.
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