Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the Emergencies Act inquiry on Nov. 25 that he did not make previous derogatory comments towards the unvaccinated and that he was rather targeting those who spread “misinformation” on public health issues.
“I did not call people who are unvaccinated names,” he said.
“I highlighted there is a difference between people who are hesitant to get vaccinated for any range of reasons, and people who deliberately spread misinformation that puts at risk the life and health of their fellow Canadians.”
The prime minister was responding to a question from Freedom Corp counsel Eva Chipiuk, representing the convoy protesters.
“A number of people have testified in this inquiry referencing your widely published comments and calling the unvaccinated racist and misogynist,” she said.
“Would you agree with me that one of the most important roles of a prime minister is to unite Canadians and not divide them by engaging in name calling?”
Trudeau said his focus and primary responsibility was to “keep Canadians safe and alive.”
The name calling referred to comments Trudeau made during an interview with a Quebec TV station in Sept. 2021.
“We are going to end this pandemic with vaccination. We know people who are a little hesitant, who can be convinced, but also people who are fiercely opposed to vaccination, who do not believe in science, who are often misogynistic, often are racist,” he told the host Julie Snyder.
“There are not many of them, but they take up a lot of space. As a leader, as a country, do we tolerate these people or do we say come on.”
Trudeau made these comments during the 2021 federal elections campaign. The Liberal Party had campaigned on the promise of mandating vaccination in sectors under federal authority.
‘We Heard Them’
During his testimony, Trudeau was asked by commission counsel Shantona Chaudhury if he had an answer to the criticism that his government did not engage with the “significant number” of Canadians who had “legitimate frustration” caused by COVID-19 restrictions.
Trudeau said the protesters were heard and that he knew they were asking for the end of mandates.
“But it was clear that it wasn’t that they just wanted to be heard, they wanted to be obeyed. They wanted us to change public policy,” he said.
Handwritten notes from Trudeau’s deputy chief of staff Brian Clow were entered as evidence at the commission earlier this month and suggest he was not interested in engaging with protesters early on.
“PM: No. No to changing government policy. Their goal is to disrupt and undermine govt institutions,” read the notes from what appears to be a Feb. 3 meeting.
“Talking, sure, but this doesn’t get resolved this way. They can’t undermine democracy by terrorizing populations.”
The notes further suggest that Trudeau was concerned the trucker-led protest in Ottawa was an “armed insurrection.”
Trudeau’s testimony at the inquiry closed six weeks of public hearings where a number of stakeholders were heard, including Ottawa residents, protesters, police corps, and government officials.
The commission, tasked with evaluating whether the invocation of the Emergencies Act was warranted, will now enter its policy phase.
“This last and important chapter of the public hearings will call on nearly 50 experts from various fields whose input, in my opinion, is important to the development of relevant recommendations for improvements to existing legislation,” said Commissioner Paul Rouleau in a Nov. 24 statement.