Canada

Large, angry protests target Trudeau government cabinet retreat in Hamilton

The demonstrators mainly identified as standard-bearers for the Freedom Convoy, which has now morphed into an all-purpose anti-Trudeau political movement

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Hamilton has become the scene of large, chaotic demonstrations in recent days as protesters convened to target a retreat by the cabinet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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From Monday to Wednesday, the 39-member cabinet gathered in the Ontario city in advance of the resumption of parliamentary sittings next week.

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The ministers were met Monday by a “slow roll” of about 100 cars honking horns and flying flags on the street in front of the Sheraton Hotel hosting the retreat. A large crowd also flanked both sides of the street outside a Royal Canadian Legion in nearby Stoney Creek, where Trudeau had been rumoured to be planning an appearance.

And on Tuesday night, a crowd of several dozen carrying flags and air horns pressed against the windows of the Earth to Table Bread Bar, a downtown restaurant where cabinet members were inside eating dinner.

After the meal, RCMP security and Hamilton police formed a tight cordon around the prime minister as he walked into the crush of protesters and back towards the Sheraton Hotel.

A video of the chaos posted to social media by reporter Harrison Faulkner has now been viewed more than 1.2 million times. Trudeau can be seen smiling and waving as he’s barraged by obscenities and cries of “traitor.”

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Moving the prime minister out of the building had required a bit of sleight-of-hand on the part of security. Officers had moved the prime minister’s official motorcade to the restaurant’s back door to divert the main body of the protest crowd — and then slipped Trudeau out the front door on foot.

“We’re not going to let a handful of angry people interfere with the democratic process,” was Trudeau’s reaction at a Wednesday press event.

The demonstrators mainly identified as standard-bearers for the Freedom Convoy, the protest that began last year as a reaction to federal COVID-19 mandates, but has now morphed into an all-purpose anti-Trudeau political movement.

Tuesday night’s crowd could mostly be seen flying Canadian flags, although there was liberal collection of “F—k Trudeau” banners and the occasional U.S. flag. The centrepiece of the demonstration was a large inflatable sheep bearing a sign reading “99.8 per cent survival rate” — a reference to the infection fatality rate for COVID-19 (the figure is about accurate, although it varies wildly by age group). On both Monday and Tuesday, there were incidents of fireworks bouncing off the windows of buildings containing the prime minister.

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Incidentally, Sunday marked the first anniversary of the Freedom Convoy’s initial arrival into downtown Ottawa, where the group formed an intransigent blockade of the city’s core that would not be evicted until after Trudeau’s government has invoked the Emergencies Act.

Protestors yell at the door of a hotel where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is staying during the Liberal Cabinet retreat, in downtown Hamilton, Ont., on January 24, 2023.
Protestors yell at the door of a hotel where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is staying during the Liberal Cabinet retreat, in downtown Hamilton, Ont., on January 24, 2023. Photo by Nick Iwanyshyn/The Canadian Press

By raw poll numbers, Trudeau’s popularity is at its lowest in Western Canada. But it’s in Ontario where the prime minister has encountered the most volcanic displays of public anger.

During the 2021 election campaign, Trudeau was pelted with gravel at a campaign stop in London, Ont. Last summer, he had to cancel an appearance at an Ottawa-area microbrewery after RCMP deemed that the venue was too choked with protesters.

While Trudeau often appeared at townhalls and other public events in the early years of his government, since 2021 his appearances have mostly been limited to controlled venues, ostensibly for security reasons.

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