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‘It’s Time To Stop Dividing’: Trudeau Faces Party Backlash Over Attacks On Protesters, COVID Response
Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. Canada will give small businesses an extra year -- up to the end of 2023 -- to repay Covid-19 loans received under the Canada Emergency Business Account before interest payments will kick in. Photographer: David Kawai/Bloomberg
David Kawai/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing growing criticism from within his own party as he continues to refuse concessions in what is developing into a weeks-long protest of COVID-19 mandates and restrictions in Ottawa.

At least two liberal MPs have spoken out against Trudeau’s treatment of Freedom Convoy protesters that have demonstrated in Canada’s capital city for nearly two weeks against vaccine mandates and other measures. Trudeau has dismissed the protests as those of a “small, fringe minority” and attempted to paint protesters far-right extremists.

Liberal MP Joel Lightbound held a press conference on Tuesday and ripped the Canadian government’s response to COVID-19 and said that Canadians are confused that despite rising vaccination numbers and falling case rates of severe illness, strict lockdown measures still remain in place with no timetable on when they will be lifted.

“I think there lies the frustration. They feel there is no appetite from our government to adapt so as to reflect the changing data and the changing reality of the pandemic of the world,” Lightbound said, according to the National Post. They’re worried that measures which ought to be exceptional and limited in time are being normalized with no end in sight, like vaccine passports, mandates and requirements for travelers.”

“They’re worried because they feel it is becoming harder and harder to know where public health stops and where politics begins,” he added.

The Freedom Convoy protest began as a revolt by many in the trucking industry against vaccine mandates for truck drivers. Lightbound addressed that regulation specifically, saying that the reasoning for it has become irrational to most Canadians.

“The vaccine requirement for truckers to me is a good example. And if we forget about the demonstrations, and we forget about the convoy for just a second, and look at that policy for what it is. This is a policy that now goes against the World Health Organization’s recommendation and for which no epidemiological studies and projections have been provided,” Lightbound said.

“I think it’s time to stop dividing Canadians, to stop pitting one part of the population against another. I can’t help but notice with regret that both tone and the policies of my government changed drastically on the eve and during the last election campaign,” he said.

“From a positive and unifying approach, a decision was made to wedge to divide and to stigmatize. I fear that this politicization (of) the pandemic risks undermining the public’s trust in public-health institutions. This is not a risk we ought to be taking lightly,” he added.

“Time to stop with the division and the distractions. It’s time to choose positive, not coercive methods. It’s time to unite. Finally, why am I alone voicing these concerns publicly today? I can tell you that I’m not the only one who feels varying degrees as I do within our ranks,” Lightbound concluded. “I remain hopeful this call for more humanism, for more reason, for more hope will be heard.”

Liberal MP Yves Robillard followed up Lightbound’s comments a day later, expressing support for his fellow Liberal Party member and claiming that far more lawmakers feel as he and Lightbound do about Canada’s approach to COVID-19.

“He [Lightbound] said exactly what a lot of us think,” Robillard told The Hill Times. “I agree with everything that Lightbound said.”

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