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Conservatives are going after Trudeau for calling out a heckler's racism

Andrew Scheer says the prime minister is “sweeping away legitimate questions on his failed border policy with vile personal insults.”

Canada’s Conservative leader is seizing on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent exchange with a heckler in Quebec, accusing him of “sweeping away legitimate questions on his failed border policy with vile personal insults.”

Trudeau told the heckler, who has been linked to a small Quebec-based anti-Islam, anti-immigration group, that her “racism has no place” in Canada — a comment Conservative leader Andrew Scheer says is polarizing the debate and dividing Canadians.


“That's how we know when the Liberals are losing. Concerned about crossing the border? You are racist. Concerned about the cost? You are anti-Canadian,” Scheer wrote on Twitter. “You do not like the carbon tax? You are in denial. That's enough.”

The exchange happened during a rally last week in Sabrevois, Quebec, after the woman shouted at Trudeau to explain when he would “refund the $146 million we paid for your illegal immigrants.” She also asked him if he was tolerant of “Quebecois de souche,” which roughly translates to “old stock.”

On Monday, Trudeau defended his comments, saying he “will not flinch from highlighting when the politics of division, of fear, of spreading misinformation is actually harming the fabric of this country.”

“There has been a polarization in our political discourse and there are people who are trying to feed fears and intolerance for a broad range of reasons,” he continued. “And I will remain positive and remain pulling people together, pulling communities together right across this country. But I will also be very clear when people are trying to push politics of fear and indeed intolerance. That’s something that Canadians expect of me.”

Since a video of the interaction began circulating online, activists have speculated that the woman planned the interruption in advance. According to screenshots of social media posts, she is a member of the Front Patriotique du Québec, a small anti-Islam, anti-immigration nationalist group, and made news in 2015 because she refused to be served by a Muslim woman in a dental clinic.


Conservative MP Maxime Bernier, who has been making headlines because of his tweets about how diversity will “destroy” Canada and critiques of “extreme multiculturalism,” also seized on Trudeau’s remarks.

“New poll shows half of Cdns want lower immigration levels,” he tweeted on Tuesday. “Will Trudeau again blow a gasket and shout at them that they are racist and intolerant?”

Quebec has asked for $146 million from the federal government to cover the expenses associated with an influx of irregular border crossers, a figure that includes projected future costs. So far, however, the province is set to receive just $36 million.

The number of irregular border crossers coming into Canada increased in July compared to the two previous months. There were 1,634 people intercepted by the RCMP for crossing irregularly into Canada in July, up from 1,263 people who crossed in June, according to government data.

Cover image of Conservative leader Andrew Scheer during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on June 20, 2018. Photo by Justin Tang/The Canadian Press